Strong vocabulary skills will help kindergarteners develop the reading skills they need to be successful adults. Kids who enter kindergarten with weak vocabularies are more likely to struggle when learning to read, according to a 2004 research paper by John J. Pikulski, professor of education at the University of Delaware, and Shane Templeton, professor of Literacy Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Successful kindergarteners will learn about 3,000 new words during the course of the school year. A comprehensive approach involving several activities is best to help kindergarteners rapidly acquire the vocabulary skills they need to succeed.
Reading aloud to children exposes them to new vocabulary, and is one of the best ways to help them build their language skills. The vocabulary found in stories and written text is often more diverse and difficult than the vocabulary used in conversational speech. Teachers and caregivers who take a moment to explain the meanings of unfamiliar words while reading stories contribute significantly to the development of their students’ vocabulary. Discuss the context of the new words, so kindergarteners learn to use clues from stories to decode new words themselves.
Repetition helps students internalize and apply what they are learning. Practice new vocabulary words often by writing them, talking about them and visualizing them. Make flashcards with new vocabulary words and pictures depicting their meanings, and post them on a bulletin board. Have students practice finding new words in a word search or encourage them to use new vocabulary words when they are writing stories. Kids will also enjoy incorporating vocabulary words into art projects by drawing or painting the meanings of words they are learning.
Kindergarteners learn by playing, so make vocabulary lessons fun. Put new words on large, cardboard dice and have kids take turns rolling the dice for words to act out in a game of charades or draw for a game of Pictionary. Encourage the group to be one team, working together, so the atmosphere does not get competitive. Help kids read the words and whisper them in sentences if kids need help remembering the meaning. Make a memory game with vocabulary words by putting new words and pictures that illustrate their meaning on cards. Deal the cards face down and have kids pair the words and their corresponding pictures to make a match.
Use Descriptive Language
Encourage kindergarteners to describe items using many different words. Take them on a nature walk and have them write poems about what they are seeing using all the words they can think of. Another fun activity involves putting mystery items in a paper bag. Have kindergarteners take turns reaching into the bag and describing what they feel using words while the rest of the class tries to guess what is in the bag based on the description.
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