A vocabulary is a set of familiar words that a person knows. Usually developed with age, vocabulary is a valuable and essential tool that helps children (and adults!) to communicate and expand their knowledge.

Tiers of Vocabulary

There are three ‘tiers’ that vocabulary can be placed into.

  1. Basic Vocabulary

Basic and simple words are the first things that build up a child’s vocabulary. These are tricky, early-reading words, adjectives, verbs, or nouns. They typically only have a single meaning.

  1. High-Frequency Vocabulary

This tier is sometimes called a multiple-meaning vocabulary tier, as the words within it can have more than one meaning. These words are also crucial for reading comprehension, used for direct instructions, and may be descriptive.

  1. Low-Frequency Vocabulary

These words are only used for a particular topic, so they may be called topic vocabulary. A child’s low-frequency vocabulary might encompass topics like the weather or geography.

Types of Vocabulary

We may have different vocabularies to draw on depending on whether we’re speaking, listening, reading, or writing.

  1. Speaking

Speaking vocabulary consists of the words we can say aloud. These words are used for communicating and giving instructions.

  1. Listening

Our listening vocabulary is the words we can understand by hearing them said aloud. Similar to speaking vocabulary, we use these words to listen to what others are communicating to us and what they might be instructing us to do.

Did you know? A fetus may start recognizing some words when in the womb. So your listening vocabulary begins before you’re even born!

  1. Reading

Our reading vocabulary is how many words we can understand when reading. Reading is also the primary way to build and grow vocabulary – as you read, you encounter new words you may not have seen or heard before.

  1. Writing

The words determine our writing vocabulary we can spell and use correctly in context. People’s writing vocabulary is typically smaller than their speaking or listening vocabulary, so working on it and learning new words is essential.

Why is vocabulary essential in reading?

Vocabulary is essential for speaking and communicating, but it’s also necessary for reading. It’s the key to solid reading comprehension – reading and understanding a text is impossible if you don’t know what the words mean!

When reading a text, we use our vocabulary knowledge to decode what the text is telling us. With a limited vocabulary, it’ll not be easy to understand most of the words. In addition, this will restrict the overall understanding of the text.

Reading is also what helps to grow and expand a person’s vocabulary. The more a person reads, the more language they’ll know. But while a child is still developing their vocabulary, they must be given a text at the right level – one where they’ll understand most of the words, but there are some new ones to challenge and grow their vocabulary.

What are vocabulary-building skills?

If you’ve seen how important having a solid vocabulary is, and you’re wondering, ‘what are vocabulary-building skills?’ then you’re in the right place. Here, we’ll go over what they are and how to use them to build that all-important vocabulary.

So, what are vocabulary-building skills?

Vocabulary-building skills are what children need to develop their growing vocabulary. Teachers typically encourage children to read widely and research. That’s what building a language is – seeing a new word, exploring what it means, and tucking it away to use later.

Here are some ways teachers will help children build their vocabulary skills.

  1. Synonyms

Use words other than ‘said,’ ‘nice,’ ‘good,’ or ‘bad’ – we’ve all heard that, right? Using synonyms is a tangible way for children to expand beyond their basic vocabulary and add more to their high-frequency vocabulary.

It is a simple and easy way to expand a child’s vocabulary by looking at words they already know and finding ones that mean the same or have similar meanings. Matching games are often fun for children to develop their knowledge of synonyms.

  1. Root Words, Prefixes, and Suffixes

Root words form the basis of many other words. So knowing lots of root words and the prefixes and suffixes that can be added to them will significantly expand a child’s reading and writing vocabulary. Not only will they be able to spell them, but if they come across a new word with a familiar root word, prefix, or suffix, they’ll be able to estimate its meaning.

  1. Dictionary and Thesaurus Skills

Dictionaries and thesauruses are great tools to use when helping children to develop their vocabulary. Children should develop the habit of researching a new word in the dictionary whenever they encounter one. This way, they can learn its definition. They should also be encouraged to write down the word and its meaning to refer back to later.

  1. Reading

Never underestimate the power of reading! Reading is the best and most effective way for children to grow their vocabulary. While they read, they’ll consolidate their understanding of familiar words while encountering new ones. They can use their knowledge of other words to estimate new meanings, then use their dictionary skills to learn the importance of unfamiliar words.

  1. Repetition

It’s unlikely that anyone will remember a new word’s spelling, pronunciation, and meaning after seeing it once. That’s why it’s important to repeat a new word so that it sticks. Please write it down in a sentence, draw it in a fancy way, use word cards with it on to play a game, or write it down multiple times. These activities will help a new word to stay in a child’s growing vocabulary.

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