Improve your Vocabulary – Part 1

How to Improve Vocabulary for exams:  Active Reading

A good and varied vocabulary is not only necessary for school and employment; it is an essential part of 11+ selective tests and other entrance exams. A poor vocabulary hinders performance in Verbal Reasoning and English tests.

Some children seem able to soak up words like a vocabularium sponge but, for many others, a planned programme is required to learn new words and extend the vocabulary. There are a number of methods that can be used at home and in lessons but the first, most important and successful one is to encourage children to read more. Books are a great way to expose your child to vocabulary that they do not see or hear in their daily lives.

Build vocabulary through ‘Active Reading’

Reading is becoming a less popular pastime in these days of computer/video games, surfing the internet, watching TV, social networking, texting etc., and the whole process of buying or borrowing books from a library and reading them is in decline. Perhaps the likes of the new e-book readers can be used to our advantage with children that are more familiar with touching buttons than turning the pages? Could e-book readers actually motivate some children to read more? The main challenge facing schools and parents alike is to inspire children to read in the first place.

Many children are quite capable of reading their own, sometimes limited, choice of books but struggle with other titles that are given to them. Schools will always require pupils to read set books, but to really enjoy reading children need to be involved in book selection. Occasionally, teachers/parents find that some boys are less interested in reading novels, but the same boys will often happily read non-fiction until they discover books that they do enjoy. Or even choose articles online about any topic they enjoy.  This will extend their vocabulary in the same way as a novel, provided that there is some variety. It is better to read something rather than nothing.

To improve vocabulary children need to become active readers: they should not only read, but also keep a notepad or book-mark handy in order to write down any words that they are not familiar with. Then they can be encouraged to have a go at guessing the meaning of unknown words in the context of the sentence/passage and also look up the meaning of these words in a dictionary – in much the same way as you would if you were learning a foreign language.

Reading a variety of books and text books out loud exposes children to not only vocabulary, but also to grammar and sentence structure. It helps them to hear how new vocabulary is pronounced and is used alongside correctly used grammar. Your nine to ten year-olds may consider themselves too old to be read to at bedtime but how about reading some fun poetry, rhymes and riddles together?

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