The Five Key Aspects To Teach Vocabulary More Effectively

For the most part, vocabulary is something that is not taught formally. It is something that children pick up through exposure to the language as they grow, meet new people, and find new material that introduces them to the language. It also happens to make up a large part of our ability to communicate, as knowing more words means you can communicate more effectively and precisely.

Teaching vocabulary is not overly emphasized in school because it is mainly learned through exposure to media. However, there is much to be said about taking an active role in the classroom and devoting time to helping young students develop and expand their vocabulary. Here are some fundamental principles that can help pave the way for more effective vocabulary instruction.

Focus On Practical Meaning – Not Simple Dictionary Definitions

The first of these various principles is to have the student work with more complex definitions. This can be quickly done by choosing to use encyclopedic definitions instead of dictionary definitions. Those explanations of the words do a better job of describing word usage in a practical sense. This also provides much more context.

Additionally, you can then help develop vocabulary by providing more practical context to the words in question. For example, you can start with the simple dictionary definition but then have the student learn synonyms and antonyms, what part of speech the word belongs to, what comparison you can make with words, and what the word is classified as. Finally, you can provide real-world context through actions, graphics, or examples.

Highlight the Connection Between Words

The brain is wired to categorize words in a way that is unlike how they could be associated in a vocabulary program. Instead of words being categorized by broad subjects – such as healthcare or medicine – words are instead organized by similar ideas, such as the word’s attributes, function, and synonyms. There are a few ways you can use this association to your advantage.

Of course, there are cases where you might have to cover words similar to the subject they are teaching, such as in science or biology, when discussing the atom or cell structure. In other cases, it might also be good to link groups of words to an associated concept that they are already well aware of instead of simply linking a string of words together.

An example of what not to do would be to teach words that are loosely similar in meaning but have different applications, as then the student will associate these words together and could use the incorrect one.

Encourage Word Usage

With the plethora of words available to use, it is crucial to become aware of the words and encourage them to use them daily. By using these new words in their writing and speech, students can become even more fluent, to the point of truly understanding the place of these words in their vocabulary, which is vastly more important than simply knowing of the word.

Review the Usage

Adding to the previous point, it is just as important to review the word usage and ensure that words are being used correctly and with minimal confusion. Our vocabulary is only as large as the words we use, and it becomes difficult to remember to use new words if we do not use them at the right opportunities.

You could assign your students words or groups of words to use and then have the times they used it recorded. Then, you could review it later for any corrections if need be.

Engage Your Students In Identifying Words

Because a vocabulary is mainly developed through exposure, another approach you could take is to actively engage your student in identifying new and unknown words through reading. 

By engaging students with new reading material and then pointing out new words that they may not understand, you could provide context and then loop back to any of the above points to better learn and apply it in their vocabulary.

Concluding Thoughts

Vocabulary is an essential part of literacy and understanding language. With a smaller vocabulary, students are limited in their diction and opportunity to express themselves. 

While it may not be a significant focus in schools, you can still help your students develop their vocabulary to become more fluent and perform better in other areas of their schoolwork.

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