Children's Speech & Language Therapy in Buckinghamshire

Vocabulary – Parents

Vocabulary refers to the words a child is able to understand (receptive vocabulary) or express (expressive vocabulary). If a child has a limited vocabulary they may have difficulties in understanding what is being said to them or difficulties in expressing themselves.

Young children will learn vocabulary directly relevant to their life experience and environment. To begin with this will be social greetings e.g. ‘bye-bye’ and mostly nouns i.e. labels for items or significant people in their life. Gradually they will learn labels for actions [verbs] or events and begin to understand and use describing words [adjectives] linked to the way they are feeling e.g ‘tired’ ‘hungry’ ‘thirsty’. In addition young children will learn vocabulary has a grammatical role to play in a sentence i.e. how to use prepositions or pronouns.

Children continue to develop their vocabulary skills throughout primary school in order to use curriculum key words, give clear descriptions and gain a greater understanding of the relationships between words. By the end of primary school, most children have developed effective strategies to learn, store and recall new words. Secondary school and college students continue to develop more advanced skills to meet the vocabulary demands of the curriculum. This enables them to use subject specific vocabulary to communicate effectively within their subject classes, written work and peers.

Word finding is the ability to retrieve words from your mental ‘dictionary’. Adults and children experience word finding difficulties when they know a word, it’s on the ‘tip of my tongue.

Word retrieval strategies rely on the child/students ability to store both semantic features [meanings] and phonological features [speech sounds] of words. Children and young people will always benefit from playing vocabulary type games both at home and in school.

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Last updated: 24 March, 2016