In addition to the limited vocabulary kids learn or pick up from others in preschools, parents must take extra efforts to introduce children to a bank of new words, every now and then. As per a recent survey, studies show that many students who graduate from preschools have limited vocabulary, and this affects their performance in elementary school and beyond.
Words are empowering, they give the student a gateway to understand the world around him and make sense of everything. Therefore, introducing children to a vast ocean of vocabulary, across varied topics, is the key to success for students.
How to build a robust vocabulary:
Here are a few exercises that can be incorporated to build a robust vocabulary:
#1 Converse as Much as Possible
Often parents make a mistake by speaking to the child at home in their mother tongue. While it’s important for the child to know his regional language, it is equally or even more important to learn English. Young children can grasp new words passively while having a conversation with someone, and hence make a rule of communicating in English 60% of the time, even when the child is at home. As parents, you also need to use different words or increase the complexity of the words in a sentence, so that children are constantly learning a new ‘word’ without even realizing it. Note that repetition is the key, and hence use this newly introduced word a couple of times before you phase it out and replace it with a new one.
#2 Read a Book Together
As much as your child enjoys flipping through a storybook and admires the colorful illustrious characters on the pages, he also needs to be instructed to read the text. The best way to practice this is to read to your child once or twice aloud and then make him do it. Draw the child’s attention to the book and run your finger word-by-word below the text while you are reading. The trick is to read slowly, clearly, and be mindful of the pronunciations. Pause after reading one page and then ask the child if he needs an explanation of any word that he wasn’t already aware of. Explain the meaning in simple words and then proceed with the story. You can use an e-reader or subscribe to the vast library featured by this famous reading portal called – Reading Eggs. Alongside e-books, Reading Eggs has a plethora of gamified exercises and a dedicated ‘phonics learning section’ to support the learner’s reading skills & vocabulary. This multi-award-winning platform has many loyal subscribers in Dubai and other Middle East countries.
#3 Create A Word Wall
This is a great way of constantly reminding children of the words they are learning, as they look at it every time they pass through the living room door. Place the board at a prominent position and affix a chart paper with 5 to 6 words that the child has recently learnt. Keep the word wall as-is for a couple of weeks, and then change the set of words. By repeatedly looking at the words, the child learns to process the information, such that from his short-term memory, it gets etched in the long-term memory, thereby never to be forgotten.
#4 Sing Rhymes
Together Nursery rhymes are fun, they are peppy, and have catchy tunes which make children dance. In a four-liner rhyme, think of how many new words you can accommodate to teach youngsters some additional vocabulary. It is not necessary that you need to stick to conventional ones; ‘Twinkle – Twinkle, and Humpty Dumpty’. Be free to make your own rhyme and add words that you might feel would be helpful for learning. You could also tweak sentences of an existing nursery song, to introduce synonyms and words that are unusual. Most K-12 schools in UAE and other GCC regions introduce a lot of rhymes in the Primary Year’s Program (PYP), because rhymes are easier to recall, and it helps the child in remembering words and their meanings, associated with the rhymes. Row, row, row your boat, Gently down the stream, And If you see a Pelican, Don’t forget to greet him!
Besides the above methods, you could also introduce a thesaurus to your child, once he’s old enough. An enriched vocabulary will give your child the confidence to communicate freely at school and in a social circle, thereby benefiting him manifold in life. The most important thing to remember is to be positive and support your child’s progress by motivating him.