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Supporting Vocabulary at Home

Why is vocabulary important?

  • Students must learn approximately 88,000 words by the ninth grade to be successful academically and personally.
  • Students must learn words at a rate of 7-10 words per day in order to achieve this goal. 
  • The average student must encounter a new word 7-10 times in a variety of contexts (listening, speaking, reading, writing) before they understand it. 


Types of Vocabulary Knowledge

Everyone has four types of vocabulary knowledge. 


·         Listening Vocabulary:  These are words that you know and understand when you hear them. 

·         Speaking Vocabulary:  These are words you understand and use in speech to communicate with others.

·         Reading Vocabulary:  These are words you recognize and understand when reading them.

·         Writing Vocabulary:  These are words you are able to use to communicate through written text. 


Each of these types requires different levels of understanding.


  • Listening Vocabulary:  This represents the lowest level of understanding.  Some words can be recognized and understood when hearing them, but not when read.  Understanding words you hear doesn’t guarantee you can use them yourself in speaking or writing. 
  • Reading Vocabulary: This represents the second lowest level of understanding.  Before the word can be understood, it must be recognized or decoded.  Although the word can be recognized and understood, it does not require the reader to use the word personally by applying it to his or her own speaking or writing.
  • Speaking Vocabulary:  Although someone may be able to understand a word when s/he hears it or sees it, being able to use it correctly when speaking is a more difficult task and shows higher mastery of the word. 
  • Written Vocabulary:  Using vocabulary correctly in your own writing is the most difficult task and shows the highest level of understanding. 


Supporting Vocabulary at Home


  • Remember that although there are four types of vocabulary knowledge, children may not have developed every type of knowledge for particular words and may only be able to use or understand words in some of these ways.  For example, they may understand a word when they hear it or see it, but may not have had enough practice to use it correctly in speaking or writing yet. 
  • Encourage children to practice vocabulary words in all four of the above contexts: hearing, reading, speaking and writing.  
  • Provide multiple opportunities for children to practice and encounter words.
  • Try to use your children’s vocabulary words in your own speaking so they can hear them used in context.
  • Point out and encourage children to find the words written in their stories or in other texts.
  • Encourage children to use their words in their own speaking.
  • Encourage children to try to use the words in meaningful writing.  Research has shown that simply copying or writing definitions is not very useful to long-term mastery of words.  Instead, encourage students to write meaningful sentences in which they show they know what a word means by using it correctly instead of giving a definition for it.  Also challenge them to use them in stories, poems, recipes, etc.
  • Encourage children to collect their own words to study and practice.
  • Make word learning a fun activity!