Vocabulary refers to one’s knowledge of words. It is broken up into oral (speaking), understanding (listening), and print. Needless to say, vocabulary is crucial for speaking, listening, literacy, and for learning new concepts. In most instances, decreased vocabulary development can limit and interrupt a child’s learning experience. And while it can grow naturally from daily reading and conversations depending on the sophistication of these interactions, it is just as important to explicitly teach and expand vocabulary knowledge.
A rich vocabulary is the hallmark of a well-rounded student. We are not dictionary-haters, but some students need explicit vocabulary instruction. We want students to become self-reliant so they can actively learn and transfer their vocabulary knowledge to reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
Aside from students with decreased vocabularies compared to peers, some students have what is called word-finding difficulties. These students often have trouble retrieving words more frequently than would be expected despite good comprehension of these words. Problems in word-finding can manifest in single-word retrieval or discourse contexts.
Single-Word Retrieval: This refers to difficulties in accessing specific words like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and numbers. At school, a student with word-finding challenges may have trouble answering questions that need a particular information or specific facts. When trying to access words, a student may be:
- slow and inaccurate
- fast but inaccurate
- slow and accurate
Discourse Retrieval: Trouble with discourse retrieval is characterized by difficulties in conversation and relating experiences and events. When speaking, a student’s speech will often be short or have behaviors associated with word-finding difficulties. These include repetitions, revisions or reformulations, substitutions, insertions, empty words, time fillers, and delays.
Word-finding difficulties are particularly common in students who have:
- specific learning disabilities
- reading difficulties
- specific language impairment
- fluency or stuttering problems
- language disorder
How to Help Your Child
We use a variety of effective techniques in our vocabulary and word-finding interventions, with in-depth procedures that involve listening, speaking, and written contexts to help vocabulary development.
Our strategies include:
- word-mapping (graphic display of word/concept relationships)
- word substitution (teach new words related to the word found in the story, etc.)
- semantic relationships (e.g., how are the words related)
- discussion of words in a text
- incorporating techniques students can use independently
- expanding and deepening student’s knowledge of word meanings
- acting out meanings
- focusing on word structure (root words and derivations)
- reflective pausing
- imagery and gesture cues
- mass practice
At Brooklyn Letters, we use explicit teaching methods, such as pre-reviewing difficult words, repeated exposure to vocabulary in a text, and word maps. We also use implicit teaching methods by helping children build their context skills to master more vocabulary.
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