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Why This is Important

Vocabulary is a child’s knowledge of memory for word meanings. A strong vocabulary improves all areas of communication—listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Goals for Strong Readers

  • Identify real-life connections between words and their use.
  • Use words and phrases that have been learned through responses to text, experiences, conversations, and/or listening to a story.
  • Sort objects into categories.

Quick Activity

This Word That Word
  • Look and listen for new words that your child may not know while you are reading stories aloud.
  • Pause and tell what the word means in child-friendly terms.
  • Try to use these words in your everyday conversations so your child can hear them several different times.
  • Encourage your child to use the new words.
  • Example: While reading a story with the word upset in a sentence, ask what was wrong with the girl in the picture. If your child replies that the girl was sad, remind your child that she was upset, and explain that upset and sad can mean the same thing.

More Activities and Games

Back and Forth
  • Say a word that means the same as other words. For example, enormous means large, huge, or big.
  • Take turns with your child calling out words that mean the same thing as the word that is named.
  • Relate the new words with words your child already understands and encourage your child to try to use new words in place of old words.
Hot Potato
  • Call out a new or difficult word from a recent book you read.
  • Play music while passing a ball, stuffed animal, or a potato back and forth or among a few children and yourself.
  • Stop the music and have the child holding the hot potato tell what the word means or give an example of the new word.
  • Examples: Brilliant means very bright and shiny or can mean very smart. The stars are so brilliant tonight. My mother has brilliant ideas.
  • Use the new words in conversation and in play with your child and encourage your child to do the same.
word sort
  • Gather items or pictures of items for your child to sort into groups.
  • Say the name of each item and ask your child to match real objects or pictures of objects to your spoken words.
  • Ask your child to give a name to the category for a group of objects. Give help, when needed.
  • Example: Ask your child to gather a ball, a doll, and blocks. Then ask your child if he or she knows what this group or category is called. They are all toys.
  • Example: Ask your child to gather a butter knife, spoon, and fork. Then ask your child if he or she knows what this group or category is called. They are all utensils.