“Why do we have to study vocabulary?”: The Answers Students Really Need To Hear

[Read time: 1.5 minutes]

PA281187“Why do I need to learn new words? People understand me just fine.”

It’s not inconceivable that students would ask this question. Teachers are always quick with an answer:

  • “The more words you know, the better a reader you will be, and the better reader you are, the better student you can be.”
  • “A strong vocabulary shows you are an educated person.”
  • “Understanding words helps you encounter new ideas and supports your learning about your world.”
  • “A rich vocabulary allows you to enjoy the exquisite beauty of language.”
  • “Vocabulary study will help you do better on the SAT/ACT.”
  • “Because it’s in the standards!”

You know what just happened there, right? We just went all “Miss Othmar” on them. (By the way, you can have some fun translating phrases into unmistakeable teacher talk a la Peanuts with the Wah Wah Machine. But I digress.)

Don’t you want to be the one to give them REAL answers, straight up, when they ask, “Why do we have to study vocabulary?”

Of course you do. We all do. Then make it real for them in terms they can not only understand but appreciate. Make them BEG you to let them spend more time engaging with new words and more challenging text.

Tell them:

  1. “We study vocabulary so you can rise above your fellow Instagrammers by posting photos of completed New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles instead of fish-gape selfies.” #nofilter #badasspuzzler #geniusatwork

  2. “We study vocabulary so in case you find yourself on Wheel of Fortune, you don’t miss an easy word with an obvious Greek prefix and earn the dubious distinction of ‘Dumbest Contestant on Wheel of Fortune {EVER}!'”

  3. “We study vocabulary so when you’re texting your crush, you will project intelligence and sophistication by using words to accurately convey your intended meaning.”

    emoji convo via text two carrot ring something missing in my hart
  4. “We study vocabulary so you can desginate some space between your linguistic proficiency and that of a presidential candidate of a major political party:  ‘I know words, I have the best words. I have the best, but there is no better word than “stupid.” Right? There is none, there is none. There’s no, there’s no, there’s no word like that.‘”

  5. Umm, isn’t that enough? How many more reasons do you need?

Teachers, please leave YOUR favorite real-life, straight-up answers in the comments below.

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