by Joanne Davies

How to assist your child develop their vocabulary

Vocabulary refers to the words students need to know to understand what they hear and read, and to communicate. Research undertaken by E D Hirsch and others suggests that the breadth of a student’s vocabulary is one of the most important factors in increasing reading and oral comprehension. Only when we know the meaning of the words, can we make sense of the content.

We cannot possibly explicitly teach all the words a boy needs to know, and much of our vocabulary knowledge is gained incidentally; through conversations, reading and watching television.

However, explicit teaching of vocabulary has a powerful impact on literacy success. Vocabulary lessons focussing on meaning are an important part of our curriculum. A word needs multiple encounters before it is really known. Therefore, lessons incorporate oral and written activities including providing multiple opportunities for students to: explore the word’s meaning; encounter the word in context; and use the words orally and in written form.

Rich vocabulary supports learning about the world.

How to assist your child develop their vocabulary

  • Encourage learning new words during conversations at home; recite words repeatedly. Research shows that repeating words is so important for cognitive memory.
  • Read to your child. The more you read, the more vocabulary they will hear and develop.
  • Notice new words. Provide definitions; give examples of context.
  • Talk about objects outside the house when on an outing – for example, the rustling of leaves, or the sounds of the birds, or traffic.
  • Choose a new ‘word of the day’ and attempt to use it in different contexts as many times as possible.


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Joanne Davies is Teaching and Learning Coordinator for the Junior School at Brighton Grammar, an all-boys school in Melbourne This article is about