How should children increase their vocabularies?

Research shows that a rich vocabulary is essential to reading comprehension. But are any methods of learning vocabulary better than others?

Yes.  A 2010 survey of research about vocabulary acquisition by the National Reading Technical Assistance showed three  ways are superior:

  • “Higher frequency of exposure to targeted vocabulary words will increase the likelihood that young children will understand and remember the meanings of new words and use them more frequently.” This means rereading The Three Little Pigs or a social studies chapter to a child three, four and five times has value in helping a child learn new vocabulary.

mother works with child reading story book

  • “Explicit instruction of words and their meanings increases the likelihood that young children will understand and remember the meanings of new words.” Your stopping to explain the meaning of a word helps a child to remember it. Learning words in the context of a story book or a science lesson helps students retain the meaning better than singling out a list of words, not in any context, for learning. Using multimedia, in addition to books, greatly helps ESL students to learn vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • “Questioning and language engagement enhance students’ word knowledge.” When a teacher or parent asks questions or comments on a new word, a child remembers that word better. Starting with easy questions and then building to more difficult questions helps too. While learning, the child should not be a passive listener; he needs to interact to retain vocabulary better.


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