At Primary Tutor Project we understand that a child’s vocabulary makes a huge difference to their learning. Indeed, a recent survey of teachers from 800 secondary schools revealed that many children are leaving primary school with a vocabulary that’s inadequate for their age. Four out of 10 pupils have such a limited vocabulary that it’s affecting their learning, according to the study. It has also been noted that the number of words children learn in the early years is closely related to their future success.
A well-developed vocabulary allows children to progress well in secondary school and in further life. A child’s ability to know and use words helps them to talk, to understand what others are saying and to write in an engaging way.
Well balanced support from you can make a massive difference to the number and variety of words your child will know. The quality of parent-child interactions is one of the biggest factors influencing vocabulary, so it’s vital to talk to your child and expose them to different words. Young children are like sponges, so it’s important to immerse them in language right from the start without ‘dumbing down’ the language you use. If they can say Tyrannosaurus Rex, they can say anything! Here are some ideas you can use to build your child’s vocabulary and confidence when using words.
When reading stories, ask your child questions about the story e.g. Is the dragon scary? Why? Encourage your child to expand on their answers. As your toddlers vocabulary increases encourage your child to answer questions in developed sentences. Try and avoid one / two word answers. You can lead by example here by trying to add more description to your own speech e.g. ‘That large, green tractor sure is moving rapidly!’ This helps expose your child to varied words.
Primary school onwards
Research shows that a new word needs to be used 6-12 times, in different ways, for it to be remembered long term. This can be achieved in numerous ways:
One of the best things you can do is to read to your child from a young age. Engage your child and explain anything they don’t understand. You’ll find some useful tips here.
Play word games
Explore synonyms (words that mean the same thing) together with your child. See how many different words your child can think of for ugly, short, or distant. Set a target and if they get stuck encourage them to use a dictionary or thesaurus
Act out adverbs
The act of physically moving can help to engage your child. Ask your child to scamper silently, scuttle rapidly, smile sweetly, or speak menacingly. Children love this especially when you switch roles and get them to think of the adverbs while you act them out!
When reading together, ask your child questions focusing on a particular word, such as brave: Could we say that Harry Potter is brave? Is he brave all the time? When was he the opposite of brave? This helps your child to explore the meaning of words and how expansive their meaning can be.
Talk at the table
Talk about food when you’re at the dinner table. Try and use interesting words to describe what you are eating. Dinnertime is also a good opportunity to ask your child about their day. Encourage detail and probe if they ‘don’t know – I can’t remember!’ Describe how your own day was whilst trying to use interesting words.
Things worth remembering
One of the best things a parent can do is read with their child.
Try to make time for your child to give full answers.
It’s okay for your child to make mistakes and it’s okay for you to correct them. Find some tips on improving grammar here.
Have a simple dictionary or thesaurus to hand and explore word meanings together. (Or Google it!)
If you are worried in any way about your child’s development feel free to contact us here at Primary Tutor Project where we are always happy to help parents and give advice where needed.