Every day is a great day for learning vocabulary.
When you are reading a book, watching TV, or talking to someone – and you read or hear an unfamiliar word, write it down. Keep a list of everyday words that sound familiar but you can’t quite define.
If you expect to take a course in the fall in a subject likely to use many new terms, start learning them now and you’ll be ahead of the game. It will make it so much easier to understand what the teacher is saying and what you read.
SIX Suggestions for Learning Vocabulary
1. Choose the words you want to learn. They might be new terms in your classes. Create your own Flash Cards. I like to start with the 3×5 index cards and cut them to a convenient size. I prefer to cut them in half. Others cut them into 3 or 4 pieces. Print the word neatly on one side and the definition or definitions on the other side.
2. Study them regularly. You might learn 5-10 new words in a day – or less when you’re busy. But don’t think that you will remember the word after one day’s work. You need to review the word regularly.
Here is my recommendation. If you don’t like this schedule, write your own. This sort of schedule is an example of Distributed Practice (also called Scheduled Reviews.) It is one of the most powerful learning strategies.
Day 1: Review 3 times – more if you have trouble remembering the word
Days 2-7: (The rest of the week) Review once a day – and again if word forgotten.
Weeks 2-3: Review twice a week – or more if forgotten
Weeks 3- Review once a week
Months 2-12 Review once a month. If forgotten, review twice more that month.
Years 2- ? If term is important – review 1, 2 or more time per year until you know it well.
3. Practice both directions. Sometimes look at the word and state the definition in your own words. Sometimes, read the definition and state the word. If not sure about the pronunciation, ask someone or check on internet.
4. Don’t worry about forgetting. “Re-Learning” the word results in longer lasting memory. For this reason, research shows that you learn more – although it doesn’t feel like it, if you practice with a stack of 50 cards rather than just 10 cards. Again, the reason is that you forget more easily and need to re-learn the information more often.
5. Check the dictionary for words with similar roots. I you look up autocratic, you’ll autocracy, autonomous, autograph, autonomy, automatic, automotive, autofocus, and more. You’ll find it easy to learn them all at one time.
6. Use a Thesaurus. To truly master your vocabulary, take a group of words that seem to mean the same thing. Do some research to understand how the terms are different. For example you might study the differences between big, large, huge, enormous, gigantic, giant, colossal, and immense.
For students in high school, building a strong vocabulary will help you do well on the SAT or ACT.