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?
How does vocabulary develop while reading?
At the Supermarket: Have the child guess what you spy as you describe an item (e.g., green, sweet, and succulent). Repeat several times. Watch At the Supermarket.
Spatial Language: Help the child by using spatial language to describe daily activities (e.g., "I see some round grapes that fell under the table. Let's put them in this bowl."). At the store, ask the child to give you the cereal box that is next to, under, above, or between other items on the shelf. You can also use words to describe something’s size, such as biggest, smallest, shortest and tallest. Spatial language includes references to shapes (triangle, square), sizes (tall, wide), features of shapes (corner, edge) and orientation (above, below, near, between).
More at the Store: Talk about each item as you put them in the cart. Name food you pass in the aisle and use new/less familiar words to describe the items (e.g., "These bananas are so yellow and ripe. We can have them for lunch. Let's put those ripe bananas down gently so they don't get bruised.").
Spotlight the Word: Anticipate unfamiliar words to spotlight during a read aloud. Intentionally provide child-friendly definitions when reading unfamiliar words, remembering that some words are abstract and may have more than one meaning. Also, remember to spotlight familiar words and ask the child to explain the meaning.
- Choose a category (e.g., fruit, kitchen, the zoo, music, clothes).
- Make a string of words that belong in the category by taking turns adding a word each (e.g., fruit- banana, apple, blueberry, mango).
- Each word may only be said once.
- If you repeat a word, choose a word that doesn’t belong, or simply run out of ideas, choose a new category and start again.
- Stay motivated by writing down the record of how many words in a category, and try to beat it.
What Am I?: Find the words to describe an object. It will expand the child’s vocabulary of adjectives and verbs.
- The child closes their eyes and you find any object in the room and hide it behind your back.
- You describe the object while the child guesses what it is.
- Use riddle phrases such as I am long, I am shiny, I am used to eat with, I hold liquids, What am I? (a spoon).
- Give as many clues as you need to until the child guesses the object.
- When the child guesses correctly, let them have a turn to hide an object behind their back and describe it.
Practice Activities (with Printables)
If you don't have a printer, your child's school will print these for you.
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.
Talk about New Words: This activity introduces words that may be less familiar to the child. Click on the words in bold print for a child friendly definition. Discover Words includes words that are most likely less familiar to children with an illustration. Story Time shares a more detailed story using the less familiar words.
Adventure Cards: This activity provides words that are used less frequently in daily conversation and a child-friendly definition. After reading the definition and looking at an illustration, complete a story by filling the blanks. This context reinforces the meanings of words.
Is It A Baby Animal?: This Classroom Connection lesson will help the child practice print concepts and build vocabulary by sorting.