Vocabulary building is a fundamental skill in english, as it improves reading comprehension, spoken english and written expression. Learning vocabulary is not just a matter of looking up the meaning of a word in a dictionary, but a more complex skill that is learnt through seeing and using the word in a variety of ways. Multiple exposure to the word in different situations and using different learning methods can help with vocabulary development. A good vocabulary is also important in the 11+ exam and should therefore be started early.
The inspiration from this post came from a comprehension exercise that I was doing with one of my students. The word “harmless” came up and I had to try more than one way of explaining it to her. I learned that later she used the word “harmless” to describe herself and “harmful” to describe her little sister in a conversation with her mum.
Here are 6 ways to improve vocabulary….
1. Using Visual Props
Draw a picture to show the meaning of the word.
Make flash cards with the word on one side and the meaning on the other
Download and print pictures or photos of the word
Use WORDLE.NET to create word clouds. Just type words with the same meaning and it generates a word cloud. This example is all the words which mean “yummy”.
2. Acting Out
Write down 10 words on flash cards. Get the child to pick a card and act out the meaning of the word without talking. You can print your own flashcards on Quizlet.
You can use props to help you. I have a cuddly teddy in my classroom because the word “affection” is on our vocabulary list. So to illustrate “affection”, I cuddle the toy.
3. Traditional Methods
Look up the word in a dictionary, or online at dictionary.com
find synonyms in a thesaurus, o r oline at thesaurus.com
use the word in a sentence
describe the word in a sentence
find the opposite of the word and explaining the meaning of the opposite word
Make the word longer by adding prefixes or suffixes
create vocabulary word lists for common words. I have a collection on my Pinterest.
4. Vocab Games
Matching game – make flash cards
type 1 – 10 vocab words to learn
type 2 – 10 definitions of each word
type 3 – 10 synonyms of each word
type 4 – 10 opposites to each word
Match type 1 to type 2, match type 1 to type 3 or type 1 to type 4. There are a total of 12 different types of combinations you can try. Once you’ve mastered 2 combinations, then try to match 3 sets of cards, and then all 4 sets of cards.
this one called vocabulary.com is really good for older children (age 12 and above)
parent draws a picture to represent a word, child tries to guess the word
child draws the picture and parent guesses
This game is useful for reinforcing key words or technical language
Time your child for one minute and see how many words they can come up with related to a particular topic. You can type the words in wordle.net and generate a word cloud. This one was created from the key words from “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.
5. Practice and Use
Provide opportunities for your child to use new words and to practice using them in games like crosswords. Also, use the words in a conversation with your child and try variations of the word, like adding a prefix or suffix to it.
6. Visual Thesaurus
Finally I will leave you with a website recommendation called “Visual Thesaurus” which is an excellent resource for vocab building.