What is Vocabulary?
Vocabulary refers to knowledge of the meanings of individual words being read. Vocabulary knowledge is important to a student’s ability to read and comprehend what is read. (Definition from University of Oregon)
In pre-k and kindergarten, children are introduced to new and unknown words daily through exploration and reading. The word meanings are reinforced through conversation, when these words are used in a meaningful ways.
What Does it Look Like?
What does that word mean?
Balance Fiction and Nonfiction: Read different types of texts (e.g., books, magazines, brochures, recipes) to introduce the child to a variety of vocabulary. Talk about the meanings of unfamiliar words and point out visuals when possible.
New Words at the Grocery Store: Talk with the child as you shop. Name foods as you pass them in the aisle and use new words to describe the food (e.g., "These bananas are so yellow and ripe. We can have these for lunch. Let's put those ripe bananas down gently so they don't get bruised.").
Spatial Language: Help the child by using spatial words to describe daily activities (e.g., "I see some round grapes that fell under the table. Let's put them in this bowl."). Spatial language includes shapes (triangle, square), sizes (tall, wide), features of shapes (corner, edge) and orientation (above, below, near, between).
Word Storm: Name a category (e.g., beach) and see how many words the child can think of related to the give category (e.g., sand, sun, umbrella, crab, towel, shovel, water). Continue with one of the words as the new category (e.g., towel) and brainstorm related words (e.g., beach towel, hand towel, paper towel).
Add Details: Encourage the child to include details when talking and/or writing by asking for more information (e.g., I see a brown truck that delivers packages. vs. I see a truck). One way to encourage the child to include more details is by asking the child what they see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
Practice Activities (with Printables)
If you don't have a printer, your child's school will print these for you.
Action Word Sort: Match action words to pictures. Word Sort
Four Square Vocabulary Map: Work with the child to describe the meaning of a word. Vocabulary Map
Play to Read: Use a subset of the NC Office of Early Learning Play to Read with a Caregiver resource to focus on vocabulary. Print 4 slides per page for cards on the go! Play to Read: Vocabulary
Words Are Here, There, and Everywhere: This activity allows you to choose a “way to play” the Sesame Street Reading Adventure in English or Spanish. Discover Words includes words that are most likely less familiar to children with an illustration. Explore More uses the less familiar words in sentences. Story Time shares a more detailed story using the less familiar words. While playing, click on the words in bold print for a child friendly definition.