Vocabulary Strategies

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat – the more times a child hears a word the more likely s/he will be able to remember it. Some children need to hear a word 100 times before they will remember it.
  • Cloze – a sentence can be spoken and the child encouraged to give the final word e.g. the man is wearing a hat and the girl is wearing…This can be done with pictures and the intermediate step would be to point to an item for naming.
  • Giving two alternatives – if the child is stuck then offering two alternatives is a helpful strategy as it enables a response and encourages learning e.g. is it a cat or a dog?
  • Being silly – sometimes it helps to deliberately give the wrong answer to create humour and allow the child to correct you e.g. look at him he’s eating his hat.
  • Be aware of the level – do not overload with too many new words. Select, list and  target.
  • Make sure the children hear and say – use all the senses. Actually saying the words gives important sensory feedback to build up the memory pattern for the word.

In addition to the above the following strategies may be useful for older children:

  • Use phonemic (sound) or meaning cues or both together to help child to learn/retrieve new vocabulary.
  • When planning list new words in each curriculum area use a 3 band plan:
    to plan for the vocabulary needs each term.
  • Use word webs to build up links and networks.
  • Introduce new words and overlearn before they occur in subject teaching.
  • Use practical, concrete supports where possible.
  • Be aware of double meanings and ambiguity.
  • Prepare “crib-sheets” of key words/concepts using words/pictures.
  • Use topic dictionaries with words organised by subject and including specific meanings.
  • Play class word games.
  • Relate new words to secure familiar vocabulary.
  • Help child to make associations between new and other related words.
  • Check comprehension of new vocabulary by asking the child to define and use words   in 2 or 3 different sentences.
  • If the child experiences word retrieval difficulties, encourage him to find another word or way of describing the meaning to be conveyed.


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Last updated: 21 October 2015

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