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How can I increase my child's vocabulary?

Discussion in 'English' started by geek84, May 16, 2011.

  1. geek84

    geek84 New commenter

    Hi folks
    My son is in year 5 and his teacher has stated that his vocabulary is very weak. Apart from reading books, in what other ways can I help to increase his vocabulary? Are there any worksheets that I could use?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. Reading is the best way as many of the subtleties of language are picked up through context. There are lots of vocabulary building tasks in EFL text books, looking at the roots of words, word formation, synonyms and antonyms but I'd recommend reading and talking together as the best way to create a genuine working vocabulary.
  3. I know this isn't the most exciting idea but my parents got me a thesaurus when I was younger and I loved looking up new words. Other than that, when I chat to my son, I tend to use the vocab I would with an adult. If I think he'll be unsure of a word I tell him what it means and it allows him to see the context I've used it in, he naturally picks it up this way and it isn't a 'chore'.
  4. What I did for my son, who has a very visual memory, was to go to B&Q and take a selection of their colour cards. I then chose adjectives, we thought of synonyms, and then he wrote them on the colours according to how 'strong' or 'pale' they were, e.g, angry: furious, irritated, annoyed, livid, incandescent. It made him really think about what the words meant, how they were linked and how, like in art, different effects could be achieved by using different intensities of colour. We then thought about examples when each word would be appropriate (Mummy was delighted when her son brought her a cup of coffee in bed. Mummy was thrilled when her son brought her a cup of coffee and a croissant in bed. Mummy was ecstatic when her son brought her a cup of coffee, a warmed croissant in bed, along with the book she was reading! - I had high expectations for the following morning, only for them to be dashed when a voice came from outside the bedroom door: 'Mummy was delighted to be able to make her son's breakfast, thriilled to be able to read to him while he ate it, and ecstatic to play tennis with him on the Wii afterwards.' Still, it had worked.
  5. How very cute! [​IMG] Quite a smartie you've got there. A novel idea, too.
    What worked for me and my brothers - and we aren't very technically "native" speakers of English - was that our parents always spoke to us in words they'd use with other adults. I remember my mum once calling me a hypochondriac at the tender age of 9 -- I spent days first trying to spell it properly before I found out what it meant! But that really was the sort of thing that worked. Speaking and reading are definitely the routes to be taken.
  6. Hi geek84
    Obviously, reading is a key aspect in a child's vocab development. However, I'm a great believer in the spoken word too. Talk to him - involve him in adult conversation as much as possible and with as many different adults as possible and never ever use baby/toddler words for things. Words like "bow wow" are one of my pet hates (although at the age of 5, I suspect you're past that anyway!!)
    Maybe you could find a new hobby together - the introduction of anything new in a child's life brings with it a whole host of new words and experiences. Talking to him in an adult way also helps. I have a three year old - we take her all over the place - to restaurants; out to friends for supper etc, so she gets lots of exposure to adults (whilst having her peer group time when she's at nursery).
    A good starting point might be the following website: www.ican.org.uk They are a charity and have loads of tips and ideas on how to get children communicating. They do a great guide called "Chatter Matters" (you can find it if you click on the bookshop tab).
    Above all, don't panic. Children develop linguistically at different rates - some just ooze words by the age of three (yesterday my 3 year old told me her apple had oxidised - spot the child whose parents are interested in Linguistics!!!) but others are quite quiet until about the age of 7 or 8, until all of a sudden you can't get them to shut up!
    Good luck. I'll be intersted to hear how you get on

  7. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    No offense but I can't think of a worse [ie less effective] way of increasing someone's vocabulary.
    Vocabulary depends first upon conversation and second upon reading, in my opinion. Do you chat nineteen-to-the-dozen with your child? If you do the latter, do you work on the assumption that they'll understand most of what you say and carry on regardless, or talk down to them on the assumption that they can't understand very much?
  8. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    Sorry - missed out a bit.
    Do you rely on 'Quality Time' or do you chat nineteen -to-the-dozen with your child?

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