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Strategies for building children's vocabulary

It is important to teach young children the foundational skills for literacy development before they start learning to read. One key part of literacy development is introducing students to new words and their meanings. You can do this gradually, teaching basic words first before moving to more advanced vocabulary. As children learn new words, they are better able to express themselves, understand others' ideas and also learn new ideas. In general, the larger vocabulary a child develops, the better he or she will be at reading. 

There are many opportunities for teachers to build children's vocabulary and foundational literacy skills. Reading books, field trips and daily conversations offer ideal times to practice new words with students. Here are two specific strategies to apply in your classroom: 

1. Building Phonemic Awareness

One of the first steps children take in learning to read is developing phonemic awareness. As we discussed in a previous article, phonemic awareness refers to the ability to understand and distinguish different sounds in words. Phonemic awareness is crucial to getting children to be able to read. In fact, we have a course Phonemic Awareness in Young Children: The Gateway to Reading Success that will provide participants with an understanding of phonemic awareness, how it develops in young children, and which phonemic awareness skills teachers should help young children acquire.

Being able to hear and also understand separately the individual sounds of spoken words is a key predictor of reading and spelling success later on. 

There are a variety of ways to build children's phonemic awareness. Reading aloud is one great method. Another option is to practice and recognize instances of rhyming and alliteration. Through these exercises, children gain familiarity with different sounds and are able to recognize when words and sounds are similar. Consider using story books and nursery rhymes to build children's phonemic awareness.

There are a variety of approaches you can take in introducing vocabulary to students and teaching phonemic awareness. First, try to stretch out the words as you say them. Make sure you are speaking slowly enough for children to hear the individual parts of words. By starting this process in preschool, you will help children develop the skills they'll soon be able to use independently in kindergarten, first grade and beyond. Most importantly, you'll be providing students with the skills necessary to their success with reading. 

Encourage children to talk, ask questions and explore their ideas. Through these activities, children will learn new words.

2. Continue Reading

Have your class read a variety of materials and draw from different books, formats and subjects. The greater variety you incorporate into your classroom, the more opportunities children will have for picking up new words. When you do come across a new word, make a point of emphasizing the term, saying it aloud and sounding through it. Taking this step increases the chances that children will remember the word. In addition, be sure to speak to your class about the word's meaning. This is another strategy for getting children to remember the word. 

ProSolutions Training offers many courses on Language and Literacy, including Reading to Young Children where participants in this course will learn about the importance of reading, book selection and techniques for reading aloud.

We also offer a CDA course and a CDA Renewal course for professionals seeking the CDA Credential, which is administered and awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition. In 2013, ProSolutions Training became the first online training company to earn the honor of being a formal partner of the Council. Contact us to learn more.