How Vocabulary Is Learned and Taught

How You Can Help with Vocabulary at Home

Vocabulary growth in children during the school years is stimulated and nurtured through various reading experiences. Children learn the most vocabulary through reading, so the more children read and are read to, the more words they encounter and become familiar with. One way that you can help develop vocabulary for your child at home is to read books to them just above their reading level. This can expose them to new words and contexts that may be too difficult for them to read on their own. Of course, encouraging independent reading at home can also stimulate vocabulary growth.

How Vocabulary Words are Picked

There are three levels of vocabulary words. Tier 1 are frequent words that we use everyday and are very rarely taught in school. Examples of Tier 1 words would be "clock", "baby", "happy", and "walk". Tier 2 words are most often used in written text and can contribute to improving students' writing. Some examples of Tier 2 words would be "obvious", "established", or "verify". Tier 3 words are specific to content areas such as science, math, or social studies. Examples of Tier 3 words would be "difference" which is a math word, or "photosynthesis" which is a science word. Teachers strive to teach Tier 2 words because if taught they are most likely to enter children's receptive and expressive vocabularies, however, without attention to these words, they may not be learned. Tier 3 words are mostly taught during content area times.

What role does the dictionary play?

Research indicates that dictionaries are not the best way to teach students vocabulary. The "Write the list of words and look them up in the dictionary" lesson is not a meaningful way for students to learn new words. Dictionary definitions may not give students a full grasp on the meaning of words and often cause students to choose the word out of context. However, students should know how to use dictionaries because they can be helpful in learning about alphabetical organization, parts of speech, pronunciation, or can help students better understand words they are familiar with.

Vocabulary Strategies Used In The Classroom

Visualizing and drawing words is a great way for students to learn vocabulary. If students can visualize the term and draw an image or association, they are more likely to remember the word more easily. Another strategy that may be used that allows the students to is called Vocab-O-Gram. With this strategy, students are given a list of words in which they make predictions about the vocabulary words in the story. The student is to predict whether they think the vocabulary words have to do with the characters, problem, feelings, setting, or resolution of the story. Once the students have written the words in the boxes designated for each category, they are to create sentences about how they may be used in the story. This is a great way for students to recognize words in the story and to compare with their own sentences to see if the words were used correctly.