A larger vocabulary can be a confidence booster for children and make adults better communicators.
- There are many benefits to developing one's vocabulary beyond just sounding smarter.
- A stronger vocabulary can boost confidence, improve comprehension, and make you a better communicator.
- The entire family can learn and practice new words with these fun games.
Building a larger vocabulary is about much more than being able to impress people with big words. Francie Alexander, VP and chief academic officer for Scholastic Education, wrote about three reasons why a strong vocabulary is critical to reading success. Alexander writes specifically for teachers with children pre-K through 8th grade in mind, but the ideas apply for people of all ages. The first is comprehension. "Comprehension improves when you know what the words mean," says Alexander. "Since comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, you cannot overestimate the importance of vocabulary development." The second reason is communication. "Words are the currency of communication. A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing."
The third reason is a big one. "How many times have you asked your students or your own children to 'use your words'?" Alexander asks. "When children and adolescents improve their vocabulary, their academic and social confidence and competence improve, too."
And that's only scratching the surface. There are many benefits to having a larger vocabulary, from standardized testing performance to getting through a dense novel without checking a dictionary every five minutes. There are also many ways one can build their vocabulary. For this list, we chose a category that combines learning, fun, and a communal element: games. Here are six board and card games that will help the entire family boost their confidence, become better communicators, and improve their reading comprehension.
Geared toward a slightly younger demographic (ages 7 and up) but great for the entire family, this card game uses fun prompts to encourage players to exercise their brains and use their growing vocabulary. More difficult letters are worth more points, and there is no board or complicated rules to follow.
A twist on the classic single player activity, WordSearch is a 2-4 player game that features a circular board that rotates to reveal one of 464 words. Once revealed, players race to find the word and place their tiles on it first. As the game goes on, there are opportunities to remove tiles played by your opponents and replace them with your own. The player with the most tiles on the board at the end wins. The board game comes with 16 different puzzles, with the option to customize puzzles online and print them out yourself. WordSearch is rated ages 7 and up.
According to the online Scrabble FAQ, there are over 100,000 two- to eight-letter words in most recent edition of "The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary." Playing against other people (or just studying the dictionary) will teach you new words and help you improve your score. There are of course game apps that are very similar, but sitting down with family or friends around a classic Scrabble board is something that can't be replicated on a phone.
Shake it up and see how many words you can find in three minutes! The 5x5 grid with big visible letters makes it easier for players of all ages to see. The larger grid compared to standard Boggle means there are millions more possible tile arrangements, which means that you can play it for years and years.
The scoring system in Scattergories, which penalizes players who use the same word for a prompt and rewards those who provide unique responses, makes it perfect for committing new words to memory. You're learning from those around you and, if you wish to get better, paying more attention to language outside of the game so that you score higher on your next match.
All you need to know is in the name of the game. If you can guess the meaning of words like "transmogrify" and "salubrious" from a choice of three definitions you earn 1 point, but if you can define the word without help you earn double points. There are 300 cards with 700 words, as well as an additional 50 cards for younger players.
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If you want to avoid conversation dead ends, remember to "turn" the conversation more than you "take it," says entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn.
- 60% of us are shy or socially anxious. But one mental exercise can change that statistic, says Andrew Horn.
- Learn the metamorphic two-step: It's a hypnosis mental technique that can help you name and tame your social anxiety.
- Awareness of your conversation dynamics can stop small talk from reaching an awkward dead end. Don't switch topics when the flow stalls; instead, go deeper and learn to "turn" a conversation, rather than just "take".
Andrew Horn: One of the most important aspects of meaningful conversation is listening. If you're asking important questions and not listening, you're not having a conversation at all; you are giving a soliloquy. So one of the easiest ways that we can practice active listening and avoid a conversation dead-end is to make sure that we are "turning" the conversation more than we're "taking" it.
So I'll give you a quick example. So my sister just comes back from Thailand and she says, "I had amazing trip. We went to the north and the beaches in the south." So here's what a "take" would sound like: it's like, "Oh I went to Thailand last year. We went to the beaches too." So do you see what you just did? You just directed that thing right into a dead-end, and now it's going to stop. So what a "turn" looks like is you get to say, "Oh wow I went to the beaches as well! What was your favorite part?" And so that simple turn shows them two things: that you heard what they said and that you care enough to ask a follow-up question. And I promise you that the best conversationalists always turn the conversation more than they take it. Because often times what happens is that it's not our first question that is going to get the answer or the depth that we desire, so if we commit to turning the conversation back three and four times we're going to peel off those layers and get more depth out of our conversations. So always remember turn the conversation more than you take it, and you're going to avoid those conversation dead ends.
When we move past asking better questions we move into the "metamorphic two-step". And this is all about presence. And presence is so important in conversation. You've all said this before, "She has such presence." "He has such presence." Presence is that embodied existence in the moment, it's when you're only responding and reacting to what's happening right now. There's no story from the past, there's no fear of the future, and it's a magical thing when we can create that in conversation. And one of the easiest ways to do that is something called the metamorphic two-step. And the metamorphic two-step is actually a hypnosis technique that will help you to identify how you want to feel in social situations. So I learned this from my friend Andrew who is a hypnotherapist here in New York City, he works with a lot of the Fortune 500 brands, the quickest growing startups. And basically what he talks about with some of these leaders is he helps them to identify where they have anxiety in their leadership roles and helps them to overcome that and really achieve peak performance. And so when I first met him, I said, "Okay so how would you use hypnosis to alleviate something like a social anxiety?" And so what he would tell me is he'd say, "Okay, so what I want you to do is think about a social situation where you might have some anxiety." And I would say, "Okay I'm going into a big tech conference with a bunch of really influential people and I might be nervous." And he'd say, "Articulate the undesired state of being. What is that?" And so I'd say, "I'm worried that I won't have anything to say, I'm worried that they won't think that I'm high up enough to actually care about what I'm going to say, I'm not going to add value."
And he'd say, "Great. Just by actually articulating the undesired state, you are naming it, and you're taming it. You're going to be more aware when those undesired states manifest and that's the first step." And so he said, "Step two is that you have to articulate the desired state of being." And our brains are really good at telling us what is going to go wrong in social situations because it wants to keep us safe; it wants people to like us. And this traces all the way back to caveman days where we were much more tribal, and if we were ostracized by the group we were going to get kicked out of the group and then it was a literal death sentence. And so our brain is still responding with that type of intensity to social ostracization. And so articulate the desired state of being.
One of the most common symptoms of starting out or being early in our career is shyness, is just these feelings of being intimidated, feeling unworthy. And we never talk about shyness because there's a taboo and we feel shame about it. Well guess what? The American Psychological Review just put out a study a couple of years ago, and they found out that 60 percent of all people identify as struggling with shyness or social anxiety. 60 percent! So if you struggle with that kind of intimidation, if you've had that self-critical internal dialogue you are in the majority, and so you need to be easy on yourself and say that those feelings are natural and they're ubiquitous. Everyone has those.
And so when we have those feelings we should notice that most times when we have that kind of intimidation factor, we feel unworthy, we're comparing ourselves to others, we're looking at other people and saying "Oh wow they're so much smarter than I am," or "Oh wow I'm never going to be that good." And so comparison is the thief of joy. If we're constantly comparing ourselves with other people we're not going to be able to enjoy the process, and it's going to be very hard to maintain the effort and energy that it takes to be really good at something. So what's more important, what's more effective to focus our energy on is what we want to be really good at and comparing ourselves with who we were yesterday.
If all we do is focus our attention on being better than we were the day before, we can live that process for the rest of our life. Because again, knowing who you are, what you care about and what you want to be is something that you'll keep defining for the rest of your life. But if you keep committing yourself to actually progressing, to getting better and if you can look at yourself a couple of years ago, a week ago, a couple of days ago and say, "Hey I'm smarter, I'm better, I'm learning," there's going to be fulfillment in that.
Are you living at just 40% of your potential? Here's how to tap into your inner Navy SEAL.
People always ask David Goggins: how did you get so tough? He is the only person to have completed Navy SEAL training (including two Hell Weeks), Air Force tactical air controller training, and U.S. Army Ranger School. Now that he has retired from his military career, he's an ultra-endurance athlete, committing feats of physical and mental resilience like the Badwater 135, which requires participants to run 135 miles in 24 hours in the peak heat of Death Valley. Not that he was always a super soldier: Goggins once weighed 300lbs and was by his own admission lazy and undisciplined. Here, Goggins explains how he transformed himself and won the war in his mind—from positive self-talk and building a 'cookie jar' of resilience, to the 40% rule, here's how you can learn to push past your own mind games. You can follow David on Twitter and Instagram @davidgoggins and Facebook.
Before you follow another "tip" or "trick," there's something Alan Alda wants you to know.
Alan Alda doesn't want you to take "pro tips" from anyone—not even Alan Alda. When it comes to his area of expertise—public speaking and empathetic communication—there are no hacks or shortcuts; if you want to be a world-class public speaker, you have to earn those stripes through the process of deeply understanding what it is to talk, listen, and connect. Alda calls tips intellectual abstractions; it's akin to the difference between information and knowledge, between parroting a few words in French and speaking the actual language. But, when pushed by yours truly at Big Think, Alda does give up the goods (willingly—we promise no Alan Aldas were harmed in the making of this video). His best tip to become a better communicator is what he calls the three rules of three. Listen to his practical hints for becoming a communication pro but, as he remarks, try to get there organically through the process. Alan Alda's most recent book is If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?