Students typically learn 300 to 500 new words a year through direct instruction. However, the average child learns 3000 new words a year through conversation and independent reading. That is 90% of their language acquisition! In order to have a good opportunity to understand what they read, the student needs to know at least 90% of the words given. So how do we encourage their vocabulary development?


Everyday activities to do with your student

  • Strong oral vocabulary gives a child a great foundation for reading comprehension. Encourage a lot of dialogue with your child. They need to talk…and listen.
  • Make sure they complete their thoughts when talking with you. Don't let anyone talk for them!
  • Don’t simplify your language for them (too much!). Have them tell back what you said in their own words to make sure they understand.
  • Encourage their questions...Ask your own: What is ______? How does that work?
  • Make sure they can correctly label and compare/contrast the items and ideas in their world such as: tree/bush, flower/rose/lily, ipad/computer, love/like. There are many students who have significant difficulty with political geography because they don’t know the relationships or differences between countries, states/provinces, continents, cities/towns/villages, and counties.
  • Help them explore multiple meaning words like: bat, spring, back, run.
  • Teachers and Parents both: make sure they can use their new words -  in conversation and in written original sentences...Only memorizing definitions is helpful for developing memory, but not for understanding.
  • Read to them. A lot. Again, as you read, stop and ask questions to make sure that they understand. Have them narrate back what they heard, checking to make sure they understand words that are critical to the meaning of the passage.
  • Play word games with them: Apples to Apples, Outburst, Rory’s Story Cubes for idea generator for new vocab practice, Funglish, Last Word, Don’t Say It (a younger version of Taboo), Blurt!, Tribond (for older students), Scattergories, Word on the Street, Synonyms.


Provide your student with a language rich environment, and watch their eyes alight with understanding!

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