To Boost Kids’ Vocabulary, We Need To Build Their Knowledge (2023)

Vocabulary is key to reading comprehension, and there are effective ways to teach it. But the only way to enable children to acquire the massive amount of vocabulary they need is to build their knowledge.

Having an extensive vocabulary generally means you’re a good reader, assuming you know how to decipher, or “decode,” written words. And if you read widely, you’re likely to acquire even more vocabulary—making you an even better reader.

For children who start out with a lot of vocabulary, that’s a virtuous cycle. But for others, it’s a cruel Catch-22: They don’t have the vocabulary that would enable them to read widely, which means they can’t engage in the very activity that would help them to acquire the vocabulary they need to become good readers.

It’s important to bear in mind that written texts use a greater number of unique words than spoken language—and those words are more sophisticated. So a student who has no trouble carrying on a conversation might still struggle with the vocabulary in books.

A study comparing oral language to written texts looked at a wide range of samples and found—according to reading expert Marilyn Jager Adams—that “without exception, the richness and complexity of the words used in the oral language samples paled in comparison with the written texts.” She adds that “of all the oral language samples evaluated, the only one that exceeded even preschool books in lexical range was expert witness testimony.”

(Video) Learn about 8 ग्रहो के नाम to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids


Best Travel Insurance CompaniesByAmy DaniseEditor
(Video) Learn about ऊ से शुरू शब्द to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids {हिंदी_वर्णमाला}
Best Covid-19 Travel Insurance PlansByAmy DaniseEditor

Children who start school with large vocabularies typically pick up sophisticated words at home, usually because they come from highly educated families. Other children may be stumped by words used even in elementary-level texts.

Over 20 years ago, reading researcher Louisa Moats found that the kindergartners she was studying, who came from low-income families, got an average score in the fifth percentile on a commonly used test of oral vocabulary. When shown pictures to match words to, they were unable to come up with vocabulary like penguin, sewing, and parachute. By second and third grade they had moved up to the fifteenth percentile but still didn’t know words like amazed, locket, balcony, and weasel. “By fourth grade,” Moats wrote, “many students are clearly lost in the more complex text they encounter in school, even if their decoding skills are good.”

Unfortunately, the only thing that has changed in the last two decades is that fourth-graders are less likely to be expected to read complex text. Instead they’re limited to simple texts they can read on their own, on the theory that such an approach will equip them to read more complex texts. We’ve only postponed the day of reckoning to high school, where texts suddenly assume a lot of academic vocabulary many students don’t have.

Going Beyond Word Lists and Definitions

Elementary schools can and should explicitly teach children the kind of vocabulary words they’ll be expected to know at higher grade levels. But some approaches work better than others.

(Video) Learn about 9 PLANETS NAME to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids

Building vocabulary isn’t just a matter of giving kids a list of words and definitions. A word is just the tip of an iceberg of knowledge. If kids learn a vocabulary word with no context, they might memorize the definition but they probably won’t truly understand its meaning or be able to use or remember it. And to really grasp and retain a new word, students need to encounter it not just in one context but repeatedly.

So, rather than reading books on random topics, which is the standard practice in elementary classrooms, students should be exposed to a series of texts organized around a single topic, over at least two or three weeks. The topics covered should also build on each other, so that when students move on to a new one they have most of the key vocabulary needed to understand it. In other words, the curriculum should be organized to systematically build knowledge. (The website of the Knowledge Matters Campaign has more information on that kind of curriculum.)

Vocabulary words that are taught directly should be drawn from texts in the curriculum—and teachers should introduce them by reading the texts aloud. That’s how it’s possible to break out of that Catch-22 that seems to prevent children from acquiring sophisticated vocabulary they don’t already have. Before they’re fluent readers, kids can take in more complex concepts and vocabulary through listening than through their own reading. Once they’ve heard a word a few times in meaningful contexts and, ideally, used it in class discussion, they’re more likely to understand it in texts they read independently.

A threshold question is which words in a text to target for instruction. A good curriculum will highlight them, but a general rule is to look for words that are commonly found in written but not spoken language—“Tier 2” words, according to a framework developed by researchers Isabel Beck, Margaret McKeown, and Linda Kucan. These include words like coincidence, absurd, and industrious. (Tier 1 includes common words that kids are likely to just pick up, like clock, and Tier 3 encompasses highly specialized words like isotope.) In addition, it’s a good idea to focus on words that are important to understanding the text at hand or likely to appear again in texts students will be expected to read in the near future.

Beyond providing an understandable definition, teachers can relate a word to other concepts—for example, comparing pond to lake and ocean—and explain its other meanings. Even a simple word like fan can have multiple meanings—a ceiling fan, a sports fan—or be used as a verb (“She fanned herself in the hot room”). With more sophisticated words or phrases like medieval or middle class, there are so many possible nuances that—as history teacher and blogger Michael Fordham has written—you need a “knowledge party in your head.”

Children Also Need to Learn Words They Haven’t Been Taught

But evidence tells us it’s impossible to directly teach children all the words they need to become fully literate. It’s been estimated that students need to learn around 100,000 words to understand the texts they’re expected to read in kindergarten through eighth grade. According to reading researcher Mark Seidenberg, children need to add about eight new words a day during their first several years of schooling.

(Video) Learn about Fruits Name to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids

That means kids need to acquire vocabulary they haven’t actually been taught. How can they do that? One possibility is to encourage them look up words they don’t know. But, while students should be made aware of dictionaries and glossaries—and Google—they may not understand the definitions they find. And breaking off reading a text to look up words repeatedly makes comprehension more difficult.

Students can also be taught to use context to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words. But, according to researcher Marilyn Adams, that works only about 50% of the time. And the students who are best at inferring meanings are those who already have an extensive vocabulary—another Catch-22.

A more powerful strategy is to teach students about the meanings of components of the words they’re learning directly, like prefixes and suffixes, along with Greek and Latin roots. If they know that the un in unhappy means “not,” they’re more likely to understand a word like undistinguished. It’s also helpful to teach word families: if the target word is celebrity, for example, bring in words like celebrate and celebration.

Still, none of this fully explains how some students are able to acquire the vast number of words they need to be successful readers. According to both Adams and Seidenberg, a study involving a computer model that simulates the process of acquiring vocabulary provides insight into what actually happens.

As researchers fed texts into the model, the computer built associations between each word in a text and those surrounding it. As associations between the words and the contexts grew, networks of knowledge became activated that extended to some that the model had never “read.” In fact, according to Adams, “the amount the model learned about words that did not appear in a given reading was three times as much as what it learned about words that were in the reading.”

That makes sense, Adams continues, if we think about it in terms of acquiring knowledge rather than vocabulary. If students learn about, say, lions and tigers, they’ll also be acquiring general concepts and networks of words that apply to felines they haven’t learned about—say, lynxes. If they then read about lynxes, they’ll pretty much automatically have an understanding of what a lynx is.

(Video) Learn about 12 Cereals name Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids

Again, though, this process depends on systematically building children’s knowledge. Reading one book on lions or tigers is unlikely to enable students to absorb and retain the network of information that will support their understanding of words they haven’t been taught.

The bottom line is that “vocabulary” isn’t really distinct from “comprehension,” as a popular infographic suggests. And both aspects of literacy can only grow alongside knowledge. So if we want to boost students’ vocabulary—and their reading comprehension—we need to systematically build their knowledge.


How do I increase my child's vocabulary? ›

  1. Bring new words to life.
  2. Visualise new words on paper.
  3. Encourage your child to query any new words they come across.
  4. Talk constantly with your child.
  5. Have two-way conversations with your child.
  6. Don't 'dumb down' your own vocabulary.
  7. Put new words into context.
  8. Position a word in different scenarios.
Mar 17, 2022

How do we develop your vocabulary knowledge? ›

How to improve your vocabulary and writing skills
  1. Learn the roots of words. ...
  2. Focus on practical terms and words. ...
  3. Create word associations. ...
  4. Complete regular vocabulary tests. ...
  5. Take a writing class. ...
  6. Create groups of words. ...
  7. Identify word nuances. ...
  8. Identify words that share meanings.
Feb 16, 2023

Why it is important to expand your knowledge in vocabulary? ›

From action words to descriptive words and beyond, a strong vocabulary facilitates precise writing and helps you avoid vague words. As you broaden your range of vocabulary, you become better able to describe specific settings, emotions, and ideas.

What strategies do the educators use to help children expand their vocabulary? ›

What strategies can educators use to introduce complex vocabulary?
  • Flood the environment with talk to help them learn new ideas and express themselves competently and confidently.
  • Model the use of new words that children can use to describe their world.
  • Incorporate interesting and complex language into daily talk.

How can teachers promote children's vocabulary development? ›

You can adopt direct teaching methods such as: Introducing specific word instruction geared toward increased comprehension and vocabulary. Leading wordplay activities that build upon previously learned words. Encouraging students to read often to boost their word knowledge and language development.

How do students build their vocabulary? ›

Introduce each new word one at a time.

Say the word aloud and have students repeat the word. For visual support, display the words and their definitions for students to see, such as on a word wall, flip chart, or vocabulary graphic organizer. Showing pictures related to the word can be helpful, too.

What are vocabulary building skills? ›

So, what are vocabulary building skills? Vocabulary building skills are what children need to develop their growing vocabulary. Teachers typically encourage children to read widely and research. That's what building a vocabulary is - seeing a new word, researching what it means, and tucking it away to use later.

What is an example of vocabulary knowledge? ›

Students' vocabulary knowledge consists of two parts: spoken words and printed words. Sometimes, students are able to use and understand spoken words that they do not recognize in print. For example, nearly all students know what a tongue is and use the word tongue in conversation.

What is the impact of vocabulary knowledge? ›

Vocabulary knowledge is the building block of learning a second language and the degree of success for learning any language depends on the amount of vocabulary a learner possesses. Vocabulary knowledge contributes to mastering language skills (reading, listening, writing, and speaking).

How can students improve their speaking skills? ›

By Reshmi VM
  1. Listen. The first step in improving your speaking skills is actually working on your listening. ...
  2. Imitate. Now that you have listened to lots of English conversations, it's time for some imitation. ...
  3. Read. Reading is yet another important skill to have when learning a language. ...
  4. Reflect. ...
  5. Prepare. ...
  6. Speak. ...
  7. Practise.
Oct 18, 2021

What is an example of vocabulary expansion? ›

Vocabulary expansion enhances your capability of understanding complex concepts as well. For example, if you understand manners' and etiquettes', it would be easier for you to understand the meaning of courteous', poised', elegant' etc.

What can teachers do to help their students build vocabulary? ›

Provide a student-friendly definition of each word. You may want to repeat this several times. Provide examples for each word beyond the context of the text. Encourage children to provide examples of their own so they personalize the word, relating it to their own context.

How do students develop and expand their vocabulary? ›

Reading is one of the most effective ways to teach vocabulary and regular reading is the strategy that gives students the opportunity to practice and master the phases of critical reading that lead to reading success and improved word usage.

Why is it important to expand children's vocabulary? ›

A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing. Vocabulary is critical to a child's success for these reasons: Vocabulary growth is directly related to school achievement. The size of a child's vocabulary in kindergarten predicts the ability to learn to read.

What should a teacher teach for vocabulary development? ›

Effective vocabulary teaching has five key principles.
  • Focus on rich meanings, not just dictionary definitions. ...
  • Emphasize the connections among words. ...
  • Promote usage of the words. ...
  • Review is important. ...
  • Involve students in identifying some of the words to be studied.

What is the number one way teachers develop and improve children's vocabulary? ›

Reading and talking with children plays an important role in developing their vocabulary. Typically, more words are used in written language than in spoken language. The more you read to children, the larger vocabulary they will develop.

What is important to teach in teaching vocabulary? ›

The most effective way to teach vocabulary is to show how new words relate to other words, especially ones that students already know. It is important to explicitly teach the relationships between words.

How is vocabulary developed or learned? ›

Most students acquire vocabulary incidentally through indirect exposure to words at home and at school—by listening and talking, by listening to books read aloud to them, and by reading widely on their own. The amount of reading is important to long-term vocabulary development (Cunningham and Stanovich, 1998).

What is the most effective vocabulary building technique? ›

Reading frequently both in and out of the classroom will help strengthen your vocabulary. Whenever you read a book, magazine, newspaper, blog, or any other resource, keep a running list of words you don't know. Look up the words as you encounter them and try to incorporate them into your own speaking and writing.

What are the 4 types of vocabulary development? ›

Researchers often refer to four types of vocabulary
  • listening vocabulary-the words we need to know to understand what we hear.
  • speaking vocabulary-the words we use when we speak.
  • reading vocabulary-the words we need to know to understand what we read.
  • writing vocabulary-the words we use in writing.

What are the three main elements of vocabulary development? ›

There are three very important aspects of a new word that you should be sure to learn: denotation, connotation, and collocation.

What is vocabulary in child development? ›

Vocabulary refers to the collection of words that a person knows and uses. Vocabulary development is the process of acquiring new words. The size of a child's vocabulary between preschool and first grade is often a strong indicator of their reading comprehension in later grades.

What are vocabulary examples for kids? ›

Some essential vocabulary words for kids are ancient, border, coast, device, examine, flutter, grace, individual, journey, and others.
Vocabulary Words For Kindergarten Kids.
5 more rows
Aug 24, 2022

What is the relationship between knowledge and vocabulary? ›

Breadth of vocabulary knowledge is regarded as vocabulary size, i.e., the quantity of words that a learner at a certain level knows (Nation, 2001). Depth of vocabulary knowledge refers to the quality of knowing a word, which means learners should know more than a superficial understanding of a word's meaning.

What does it mean to have vocabulary knowledge? ›

Vocabulary refers to the knowledge of words as well as the meaning of words. Vocabulary knowledge is more than just citing the definition of a word. It requires that the reader use the word appropriately based upon a given context.

What factors affect vocabulary learning? ›

The learners' vocabulary learnability is normally influenced by two major types of factors; intralexical and extralexical factors. Intralexical factor refers to a factor that stems from the word itself, such as orthography, length, and semantic features of the word (Laufer, 1997).

What are four tips for improving speaking skills? ›

How to Become a Better Public Speaker
  • Study Great Public Speakers.
  • Relax Your Body Language.
  • Practice Voice and Breath Control.
  • Prepare Talking Points.
  • Know Your Audience.
  • Add a Visual Aid.
  • Rehearse.
  • Record Your Speeches.

Why is it important to develop speaking skills? ›

Public speaking is a mode of communication in which people express their ideas or arguments to an audience, often to persuade or entertain others. This is an important skill because it allows speakers to form connections with their audience, which may help them influence or motivate an audience's decisions or actions.

What is an example of vocabulary builder? ›

Crossword puzzles are vocabulary builders. Flash cards can be used to build a person's vocabulary.

What is an example of how vocabulary is directly taught? ›

Two examples of direct vocabulary instruction include: specific word instruction and word learning instruction.

What are vocabulary learning strategies? ›

Vocabulary-learning strategies are a part of language-learning strategies which in turn are a part of general learning strategies. In general, the findings of research on vocabulary-learning strategies agree with studies of more general language-learning strategy use.

What do children gain from vocabulary and language development? ›

It supports the ability of your child to communicate, and express and understand feelings. It also supports your child's thinking ability and helps them develop and maintain relationships. Language development lays the foundation for the reading and writing skills in children as they enter and progress through school.

What happens as a child's vocabulary increases? ›

a child's vocabulary growth is directly linked to his or her overall school achievement [1] the size of a child's vocabulary in kindergarten predicts his ability to learn to read [2] the more words a child knows, the more information the child has access to.

Why is vocabulary and language development important in early childhood? ›

Language development is an important part of child development. It supports your child's ability to communicate. It also supports your child's ability to: express and understand feelings.

What causes poor vocabulary? ›

Some kids struggle to learn new vocabulary words because they struggle with language in general. They might have trouble expressing their thoughts and ideas using spoken or written words. This is called expressive language.

At what age should parents see a vocabulary spurt? ›

This transition has often been referred to as the “vocabulary spurt” or “vocabulary burst,” which usually occurs between 18 and 24 months of age (Bates & Goodman, 2001; Fenson et al., 1994; Fernald, Pinto, Swingley, Weinberg, & McRoberts, 1998; Goldfield & Reznick, 1990; Kauschke & Hofmeister, 2002).

At what age should a child have a vocabulary of 2500 words? ›

By the time a child reaches five years old they'll know and use as many as 2,500 words. Children's vocabulary develops rapidly and we expect them to understand lots more words than they say (but this does change as they get older).

At what age does a child have a vocabulary of up to 100 words? ›

A child's vocabulary explodes around the age of 2, and they should use 100 words or more. A 3 year old should say at least 800 words. By 4 ½ years of age, children use 1500 words or more.

What age does vocabulary increase? ›

Notice how quickly vocabulary grows over the first six years of life. 1 to 1 ½ Toddlers develop around a 20-word vocabulary during this time. 2 By the time a child is 2 years old, he/she will have a 200–300-word vocabulary. 3 Vocabulary grows to be about 900–1,000 words by the time a child is 3 years old.

Does learning vocabulary get easier? ›

The larger your vocabulary, the easier it becomes to learn new words. Learning new words is one of the most difficult parts of studying a new language, especially for beginner and intermediate students. For most people in this stage, the only way to learn vocabulary is through rote memorization.

What is the single most important factor in growth of a child's vocabulary? ›

Reading is considered to be a key element of vocabulary development in school-age children. Before children are able to read on their own, children can learn from others reading to them.

What is a child's vocabulary by age? ›

After children begin understanding words in the first year of life, their receptive vocabulary size increases rapidly. At age one, children recognize about 50 words; by age three, they recognize about 1,000 words; and by age five, they recognize at least 10,000 words (Shipley & McAfee, 2015).

How much vocabulary should a 5 year old have? ›

How many words should kids know? Most “typical” 5-year-olds have a vocabulary of about 10,000 words.

How do children learn to talk? ›

Children acquire language through interaction - not only with their parents and other adults, but also with other children. All normal children who grow up in normal households, surrounded by conversation, will acquire the language that is being used around them.

How do I know if my child is gifted at age 2? ›

12 signs of a gifted child
  1. Quick learning. According to Louis, a telltale sign that a child is exceptionally bright for their age is how quickly they learn. ...
  2. Big vocabulary. ...
  3. Lots of curiosity. ...
  4. Eagerness to learn. ...
  5. Early reading. ...
  6. Talent for puzzles or patterns. ...
  7. Exceptional creativity. ...
  8. Advanced reasoning skills.
Aug 4, 2022

Should a 5 year old speak clearly? ›

Their sentences include 4 or more words, and their vocabulary continues to grow. Speech should be completely understandable, although there may still be some developmental sound errors (like lisping) and stuttering, particularly among boys.

At what age does language and vocabulary expand the most? ›

Vocabulary and language development in children at 2-3 years

At this age, your child's vocabulary expands quickly – they might even learn new words each day. In general, your child understands more words than they can use.

Why does my 3 year old not talk in sentences? ›

Children develop at their own rate. If your child has a speech delay, it doesn't always mean something is wrong. You may simply have a late bloomer who'll be talking your ear off in no time. A speech delay can also be due to hearing loss or underlying neurological or developmental disorders.

How many words should a child learn each year? ›

How many words should your child know?
12-18 months20 words
2 years200-300 words
3 years900-1,000 words
4 years1,500-1,600 words
5 years2,100-2,200 words
2 more rows


1. Learn about Vegetable Names to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids
(KVS Coach)
2. Learn about 25 Flower name to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids
(KVS Coach)
3. Learn about , हिंदी_वर्णमाला 12 आ से शब्द to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids
(KVS Coach)
4. Learning Fruits - Fun Way to Build Your Child's Vocabulary
(Smile and Learn - English)
5. Learn about 25 Colours Name to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids
(KVS Coach)
6. Learn about 25 Birds Name to Improve Knowledge & Vocabulary of Kids
(KVS Coach)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Madonna Wisozk

Last Updated: 10/14/2023

Views: 6060

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Madonna Wisozk

Birthday: 2001-02-23

Address: 656 Gerhold Summit, Sidneyberg, FL 78179-2512

Phone: +6742282696652

Job: Customer Banking Liaison

Hobby: Flower arranging, Yo-yoing, Tai chi, Rowing, Macrame, Urban exploration, Knife making

Introduction: My name is Madonna Wisozk, I am a attractive, healthy, thoughtful, faithful, open, vivacious, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.