How to build a young child's vocabulary

How to build a young child's vocabulary

Vocabulary is one of the single most important learning tools that children have at their disposal, especially when they’re just starting school. It provides them with the means to question and make sense of the world around them, and gives them the building blocks to further progress their learning. For that reason alone, children with low vocabularies need to be assisted as with it as early as possible, because otherwise it can become progressively more difficult for them to catch up with their peers.

That’s part of why school exercise books are so instrumental to children’s learning, especially vocabulary and spelling books. This week, we’ve detailed a few useful approaches you can take with your students in class, to help improve their abilities with this all-important skill.

Set an objective for the day

Giving pupils an opportunity to clearly see the goal they’re working towards for each day can work wonders in improving their motivation. Perhaps one of the best specific techniques when it comes to vocabulary is to unveil a new Word of the Day with your pupils each morning, and use it in context as many times as possible throughout the day.

Pre-teaching specific vocabulary

If you have a prepared text that you’re gearing up to go through with your students, this approach can be particularly helpful for young children, or perhaps older students who may have lost some of their confidence for whatever reason. Before you begin the text, you can take a moment to identify and explain words that you think they might have difficulty with, such as technical terms, or familiar words that they might be encountering in new contexts.


Preparing them on how to handle new vocabulary themselves

On the other hand, you could take a similar but slightly different approach to the above, by being less specific about exactly which words your class will encounter. Instead you may choose to explain certain characteristics of the word, and what its meaning or spelling may relate to. When they subsequently encounter the word themselves, you can then encourage them to use their own knowledge of the context - as well as the likely intent of the text itself - to successfully infer the meaning of each new word.

Critical thinking exercises

For older students, or those with a reasonable level of confidence in their vocabulary skills, you can set a slightly harder task. You can choose to separate your class into several smaller groups, and set them to review a piece of writing, and evaluate and challenging the vocabulary choices in it. Why do they think certain words may have been used? What is the author attempting to convey by selecting those ones in particular? If you’d like, you can even challenge them to come up with their own alternatives.

Make new connections with word families

Word families can be incredibly useful concepts to help children build their vocabularies. You could choose word families that are form based (such as rest, restful or rested), or meaning-based (such as big, medium, small, tiny etc). By recognising similarities between different words - whether that’s through common features, patterns or meanings - children can start intuitively guessing at the structure or meanings of any brand new words they encounter. A reliable way to introduce children to new word families is by choosing specific books that may have similar stories or themes.

These are just a few possible approaches you could try. You may well have some ideas of your own! Whatever you choose, rest assured that you can find all the school exercise books you’ll need for your class right here at EPSL, ranging from express vocabulary and spelling books all the way up to personalised exercise books. With more than 40 years of experience behind us, we’re top of the class when it comes to producing resources and learning solutions for schools, so you can count on us to provide answers in as much or as little detail as you need. Feel free to give us a call on 01254 686 500!

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