Vocabulary - Effective Teaching

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Effective Teaching of Vocabulary

Introduction

Children with language and learning difficulties will need extra support in developing vocabulary. However, all children will benefit from opportunities to pre-teach vocabulary before being exposed to it as part of a lesson.

Children with difficulties acquiring vocabulary will benefit from activities that explore the semantic links and phonological structure of each new word.

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Semantics

Semantics is the study of attributing meaning to language. It is useful in teaching vocabulary to students who struggle with acquiring language. These students may not readily make connections in their learning and need help to 'anchor' new vocabulary into their personal lexicon of known words. Explicitly teaching these students the connections of meaning in vocabulary to the words and concepts already known, can be hugely beneficial in developing their language. It can also help them become better at acquiring vocabulary in the future by learning to apply these semantic skills.

Semantics

There are six ways to explore the semantics of a word:

Category - What sort of group does it belong to?
Function - What does this word do?
Context - Where might you find or use this word?
Description - Can you describe it?
Similarity - What else is like it?
Association - What else does it make you think of?

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Phonology

Phonology is to do with the relationships of sounds in a word. Phonological awareness is an understanding of these sound relationships. Some students, particularly those with auditory discrimination difficulties, struggle with recognising patterns in sound. Explicit teaching of the sound relationships helps to raise awareness of these factors and improves decoding skills.

Phonology

The following are ways of exploring this:

Length - Is it a long or a short word? How many syllables?
Initial sound - What sound does it start with?
Other sounds - What other sounds can you hear?
Rhyme - What other words end with a similar sound? (Does not need to be a real word)
Rhythm - How many sounds in the word can you hear? Can you clap each syllable?

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Strategies

Children experiencing difficulties will need to revisit the vocabulary many times in order for it to be acquired securely. Where possible the following should be organised:

Daily vocabulary sessions lasting about ten minutes. If this is hard to achieve at least three times a week.
Limit the number of words being taught. Some where between 3 and 6 words is probably a good starting point but for some children this may be just one word!
Avoid other lists of words for the child to learn at the same time. For example weekly spellings.
Vary the strategies being used to teach and reinforce vocabulary. Children should have opportunities for kinesthetic learning as well as visual and aural.
Use games and make learning fun.
Make use of ICT. Programmes such as WordShark enable many children to work independently or with minimal support and are very good for motivation.

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You may also find the following pages useful:

Barrier Games

Figurative and non-literal language resources

Vocabulary Resources

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