4 strategies to improve children’s vocabulary
Last week, we started a series of blogs to enumerate skills essential to building literacy among students. In the first blog (here), we shared our thoughts on reading skills. This week we focus on vocabulary.
How can parents, teachers and other caregivers ensure that children learn, remember and use new and relevant vocabulary words in their conversations and writing? Here are 4 strategies to keep in mind!
1. Conversations with many new words
Even before children learn to read, they already know hundreds of words, thanks to conversations at home. Oral conversations are the first way in which children learn new vocabulary. Parents and other caregivers must talk to children as much as possible, even if you know that they may not understand many of the words – children learn by picking up words from conversations. For example, as you cook in the kitchen, narrate to the child what you are doing (cutting, chopping, stirring); what vessels and instruments you are using (knife, chopper, ladle); which vegetables, spices and other ingredients you are using; what you can smell and what you are feeling; and so on! Start this as early as you can – right from when the child is a few months old!
2. Read a variety of texts
Storybooks are the next source of vocabulary. Read stories aloud, read together and encourage children to read independently or narrate the story to you. As you read, explicitly explain the meanings of new words to children.
However, storybooks are just one source of new words. Riddles, rhymes and songs are extremely important too. Finally, don’t restrict your child’s reading to just books and rhymes. When they are young, expose them to encyclopaedias, recipe books, instruction manuals, and so on; as they grow older, surround them with technical books (like biology, geography), newspapers and travel books. Each reading will add new words to their vocabulary bank – words that they will never be exposed to if they read only storybooks!
3. Use new words at least 12 times
For a new word to become a part of our regular vocabulary, we must be exposed to it at least 12 times, in different ways. This means that simply doing 1 or 2 textbook exercises to learn new vocabulary words is not enough. Children must get the opportunity to read, write, speak or use a word at least 12 times. For example, imagine that a child has just come across the word mutter for the first time in a story. A few different ways in which the child can be exposed to the word are: 1) explicit explanation of the meaning 2) reading the word again in a different story 3) sharing an example of a time that the child muttered something 4) using the word to describe how a character in a movie is speaking 5) writing a short paragraph about a character muttering, and so on.
4. Focus on words that children can actually use
A child in grade 2 may not often get a chance to use the word like philosophy or species, even if such a word pops up in a book they read or a movie they watch. Parents and educators must deliberately choose and focus on words that children will naturally get many opportunities to use in the daily lives – in conversations and in writing. For example, instead of saying I saw this, a child can say I noticed this. Similarly, instead of saying I am happy, a child can say I am delighted/thrilled. So, words such as notice, delighted and thrilled are great words to focus on in grade 2, for example, as children will have loads of opportunities to use them.
unboxED offers the child and educator resources to build a growth mindset while exploring Literacy and STEM concepts through conversations and creation, and letting kids be kids. These products have been built keeping in mind the academic and cognitive skills needed at various stages of the child’s development.