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A List of Strategies to Help Develop Vocabulary Skills

by Dixie Parnell

Vocabulary development is paramount in growing as a reader and comprehending what is read. According to Elaine Weitzman and Janice Greenberg of The Hanen Centre, children with good vocabulary skills have a distinct academic advantage. Genuine vocabulary learning entails more than being provided a definition. Children who have the opportunity to discuss words with adults, who in turn use them often in conversation and guide the child in the correct usage, benefit greatly in increased word awareness.

Read Aloud

Regardless of age, children enjoy and benefit from books being read to them. Reading books to your child and discussing unknown words is one of the surest ways to increase your child's vocabulary and help her understand how words fit in her life. When introducing a new book to your child, the K-12 Reader website suggests previewing the book beforehand and choosing several unfamiliar words to discuss before reading. During reading, ask your child to try to connect events in the story with her own experiences. Being able to make these connections helps reinforce the related vocabulary.

Using Context Clues

According to the Reading Rockets website, the vast number of words in the English language make it impossible for any vocabulary program to introduce all of them in the academic setting. Therefore, it is imperative that children have strategies they can employ independently. Helping your child use context clues will give her the ability to learn the meanings of unfamiliar words. Have your child reread the sentence prior to the unknown word and then continue reading a sentence or two after if the word is still not understood. Looking at illustrations, captions and titles can also be beneficial.

Root Word Analysis

More experienced readers may recognize that many of the words we use in the English language are derivatives of Latin and Greek roots. Using this knowledge with the understanding of various prefixes and suffixes can assist the reader in decoding unknown words. According to the Pearson Prentice Hall eTeach website, this type of word analysis helps the reader make connections to previous learning. You can then encourage your experienced reader to use the new vocabulary in conversation and writing.

Sorting Builds Meaning

Using the strategy of categorizing can help strengthen vocabulary skills in children of all ages and reading abilities. In "Words Their Way," the authors list different types of sorting activities. Young children can begin by sorting any type of concrete object. For example, a handful of buttons can be categorized according to attribute, such as size, color, number of holes or shape. Once the objects are sorted, have your child explain her reasoning and then ask her to choose another way to group the objects. Older children can sort word cards in a variety of ways, such as in grouping together adjectives, adverbs or other parts of speech. These activities not only help increase vocabulary and strengthen reasoning skills, but most children enjoy doing them.

About the Author

An elementary educator for the past 18 years, Dixie Parnell has taught in both the public and private sectors. She earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and a Master of Arts in education from Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Prior to entering the teaching field, Parnell worked at Hamilton County Juvenile Court and served on the foster care review board.

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