Studies show that there are more words in the English Language than could ever be directly taught in a lifetime. Research shows that typically developing kids by age 12 have 50,000 words in their expressive vocabulary. The vocabulary that kids don’t learn at school, they learn in other environments. Research shows that most vocabulary is actually acquired incidentally through indirect exposure rather than direct instruction.
A research study appearing in the ASHA Journal suggests that the size of a child’s oral vocabulary at 2 years of age can be a leading predictor of their readiness for kindergarten and beyond. These findings propose that the vocabulary kids have in early life facilitates what they achieve in later life.
What is vocabulary?
Vocabulary is an umbrella term for words we have heard, words we have seen in print, words we understand, and words we use verbally. It is often said that a person’s vocabulary is never complete; it is always evolving, expanding, and deepening and is very much a by-product of lifelong learning. Developing a child’s vocabulary involves more than just use of a dictionary. Many different strategies and approaches for vocabulary development can be implemented from the comfort of your own home and in other natural environments!
Tips for parents-Developing vocabulary at home:
1. Provide language rich opportunities for learning (kids who have more opportunities to learn naturally have larger vocabularies than kids who have limited experiences. Language-rich opportunities to do as a family could include: going outdoors, taking a trip, going to a museum, building, cooking, playing a sport, attending a performance, etc.)
2. Make screen time educational (the use of technology for educational purposes is endless! Bridging technology with educational purposes ensures kids are using screen time appropriately and meaningfully. Encourage your child to listen to audio books, play word games, solve word puzzles, and watch educational videos.)
3. Label objects in your home and community (verbal or written labels can increase the frequency at which children hear and see new vocabulary concepts in the world around them.)
4. Engage in interactive reading experiences (whether you read to them, they read to you, or you read together, research shows that vocabulary instruction and reading go hand in hand. Children’s books often contain twice as many rarely used words as conversations do. ” Research shows that the best readers read most and the worst readers read least. Encouraging your child to be an avid reader is one of the best gifts you can give for ensuring they have academic success.
5. Apply your child’s interests to teaching moments (when children like what they are learning about, they will want to do more learning. Take your child’s interests of a certain topic and expand upon them by teaching them new words and concepts that relate and further their understanding!)
6. Review school work (children need multiple opportunities and repeated exposure to develop long term memory of concepts and terms they are learning. Reference your child’s spelling lists, school books, and homework to make the connections between what they are learning in school.)
7. Think big picture (as a parent, modeling diverse vocabulary for your child is key! Focus on more than common nouns by discussing lesser known verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to help their inventory of vocabulary grow.)
8. Engage in meaningful conversation.(research shows that parents who are stressed, overburdened, less engaged, may talk, read, and otherwise interact with their children less frequently, resulting in their children acquiring smaller oral vocabularies. Talking to your kids in even the smallest ways can help their word knowledge expand.
9. Teach word learning strategies (making word associations (synonyms/antonyms), analyzing word parts (root words, prefixes, suffixes), and emphasizing different parts of speech can teach kids how to infer the meaning of unknown words on their own. )
10. Make learning visual: (draw pictures for your kids to teach the meaning of words. Having a visual reference like a picture or drawing can help kids make connections between what they hear and see and can help them establish a memory of words. A picture or drawing can provide background knowledge to fall back when they need reminders of word meaning.)
ASHA Leader, “There’s a Book for That!”-Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP December 2017
ASHA Leader, “Big Vocabularies in 2-Year-Olds May Predict Kindergarten Success.”-January 2016