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Building Vocabulary

By Gio Panizzon


Exposing young learners to new words from the adults interacting with them can be a predictor of their long-term expressive vocabulary. The typical English speaker will use less than 4,000 words on a regular basis in everyday conversation, but our young learners should be able to grasp the most fundamental words. These words are often known as high frequency vocabulary, which are selected based on their use in common forms of communication. As teachers, grading your use of vocabulary to focus on high frequency words should be done in the context of everyday conversations.


Here are three easy ways to stimulate vocabulary development in our students:


  1. Read Aloud

When students struggle with phonics and reading while only being independently exposed to the text they can read, they are missing opportunities to build stronger phonemic awareness and vocabulary development. Reading aloud as a daily event improves vocabulary in the same way that independent reading does for our stronger readers! Going over readers in the class, such as TCM’s Targeted Phonics, will be an excellent way to build their recognition, and by creating more and more exposure with engaging, lively stories, comprehension and fluency will soon follow.  


  1. Think Aloud

Whenever you process or think about something, make that thinking transparent to your students. Whenever you talk about what it is you are thinking, do it in the simplest way possible so that you are not only exposing the students to recognize vocabulary, but also beginning to support the critical thinking process for your students, as you are teaching them about how good thinkers think! The words and phrases you use will be at your own level of thinking, exposing them to great vocabulary. 


  1. Grade Your Speaking

Make sure you are aware of the most frequently used words and can apply them to the situation you are explaining to expose students to proper vocabulary. As you begin to increase the volume of new vocabulary, students will instinctively use context to put the pieces together to make sense of the conversation. Look for opportunities to describe the word in context, repeat the word several times, or encourage students to ask when they don’t understand so they are aware of their own understanding. 


So, communicate, engage and have patience. Find your own ways to increase student vocabulary through everyday conversation! 


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