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.
- Talk to your child’s school about the topics they will be covering throughout the term
- Identify key words for a given topic prior to it being taught in the classroom (this can be done by the class teacher, LSA and with the child if appropriate) It is recommended that a manageable amount of words are introduced at one time e.g. 3 – 5 per topic.
- Recap key words for a given topic following the subject area taught within the classroom
- Find pictures or objects that represent the topic vocabulary where possible
- Talk about each word in turn; discuss the meaning of the word and phonological features (relating to the sounds in the word) for example how many syllables the word has and the letter it begins with.
Children of this age communicate needs and feelings by crying, babbling, gurgling, and squealing. By practicing and developing speech sounds through babbling (e.g., baba,mama) babies go on to understand and say their first words at about 1 year.
Children of this age continue to enjoy babbling and are developing their vocabulary. By 2 years of age children generally have a spoken vocabulary of more than 50 words. Most of these words will be nouns with a small vocabulary of verbs e.g. sleeping, walking. The pronunciation of these words may not yet be clear. Children of this age will be able to understand a wider range of nouns and verbs than they can say. Children will also be starting to use personal pronouns e.g. I, my and mine.
Between 2-3 years, a child’s spoken vocabulary grows considerably and can be up to 1000 words.
Children will understand and use more verbs, and will start understanding prepositions, e.g., in/on and pronouns, e.g., he/she, you/your and we.
Children of this age start using joining words such as ‘and’ and ‘because’. Children will also be asking lots of questions e.g. Why? What? Where? They will start to use adjectives of colour and size, further prepositions e.g. ‘under’ and ‘next to’ and more pronouns e.g., his/hers, they/theirs, him/her, ours.
- Knows words can be put into groups and can give common examples e.g. animals: dog, cat, horse…
- Understands a range of related words to describe concepts e.g. soon, early and late, soft, hard and smooth
- Can clap the correct number of syllables in words.
- Can find words beginning with the same sound in listening activities, e.g. ‘can you find me something that starts with a ‘t’?’
Your child is able to:
- Compare words, the way they look, sound or mean e.g. there are two words ‘sea’ at the beach, and you ‘see’ with your eyes.
- Talk about objects, describing their size, shape, category, function, etc.
- Use newly learnt words in a specific and appropriate way e.g. “Dad, you know when you have lots of lions together it is called a pride of lions.”
Your child is able to:
- Use a range of words related to time and measurement e.g. century, calendar, breadth.
- Use a wide range of verbs to express their thoughts, or about cause and effect e.g. “I wonder what she’s thinking”, or “If we run we should get there on time but we might arrive late.”
- Join in discussions about an activity using topic vocabulary e.g. “I saw some chicken eggs hatching in the incubator on the farm last Friday.”
- Beginning to extend understanding and use of vocabulary linked to expressing emotion.
Your child is able to:
- Make choices from a wide and varied vocabulary e.g. ‘leap’ instead of ‘jump’, ‘terrified’ instead of ‘frightened’
- Use sophisticated words but the meaning might not always be accurate e.g. “My bedroom was meticulous.”
- Know that words can have two meanings and can use them appropriately. Can’t always explain how they are linked e.g. ‘hard’ (rigid object and tough person)
- Developing a wider range of vocabulary linked to emotion and accurately describing the emotions of themselves and others
Your teenager may:
- Still be challenged by some instruction words, e.g. modify, generate, consider.
- Use patterns in words (e.g. affixes), e.g. –able, -esque, un-, dis- to aid understanding.
- Uses ‘academic words’ when prompted in all formal tasks, e.g. agitated, arrogant, excruciating.
- Be able to confidently explain the meaning of subject words and words with multiple meanings.
- Know what these instruction words are asking them to do: evaluate, find themes, compile.
- Will continue to learn vocabulary for specific topics or Specialisms.
- Use a range of descriptive words and expressions; e.g. swaggered, noxious, meandered.