Vocabulary and Concept Development

Learning vocabulary is a lifelong experience. As pupils progress through education vocabulary becomes more complex. Vocabulary knowledge is a key predictor of how well a pupil understands a curriculum topic and in order for this to take place, pupils must learn the vocabulary words that represent the concepts that they are being taught.

Vocabulary is concerned with the meaning, storage and selection of words. There are two types of vocabulary, oral and print. Oral vocabulary refers to words that are used in speaking or recognised when listening. Print vocabulary is synonymous with reading vocabulary and refers to words we recognise and use in print. Vocabulary is also an important part of learning to read. As pupils learn to read more advanced texts, they must learn the meaning of new words that are not part of their oral vocabulary. Vocabulary can be developed in two ways, indirectly and directly. Indirectly refers to when pupils engage daily in oral language, listen to adults read to them, and read extensively on their own. Directly refers to when pupils are explicitly taught both individual words and word learning strategies.

Everyday in school, pupils are exposed to new words which they are expected to understand and remember.

Pupils who:

  • use non-specific language (e.g. stuff, thingy)
  • hesitate in giving a response or responding too quickly with an incorrect response
  • omit words
  • use inconsistent word endings
  • substitute words of similar sound or meaning
  • use gesture and/or appear to be searching for words
  • need more time to remember

MAY be experiencing problems with vocabulary and concepts.

Pupils who are experiencing difficulties with vocabulary will benefit from a differentiated curriculum, exposure to appropriate classroom teaching strategies and a structured approach to teach them the skills needed to effectively organise, store and retrieve new words.

Vocabulary flowchart

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Last updated: 10 September 2012

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