Primary English Tips | Vocabulary: How to Record (and Remember) New Words

Happy Tuesday, everyone! 

In the previous post, I talked about some important points to consider in helping your child grow his/her vocabulary through reading. Have your children been reading this holiday? If they have and are reading materials that are pitched at their level, they must have come across some new words along the way.

What children have most often been encouraged to do, is to record down these new words in a notebook and to state the definitions beside it. However, most of you who have done that will realise that as the list grows in the book, it does not necessarily grow in your child's head. At the same time, this method of recording new words "learnt" is also killing the curiosity your child has about words and its meaning. After all, it is really just copying and pasting.

A curious child will always be motivated to find out more and when learning is meaningful, there is even more reason to want to continue learning. As we try and grow the curiosity children have about words, here are three other ways to organise the new words learnt during reading.

1. Vocabulary  Frames

A vocabulary frame is more than just definitions!

A vocabulary frame is more than just definitions!

A vocabulary frame is useful in helping a child to understand a word as it requires the children to jot down more than a definition. Instead, a child should write down the opposite meaning or what it is not as well. In addition, it uses mnemonics(memory devices that aid in recall and remembering) such as images (drawing or pictures for children who are less confident of their drawing skills) and a silly sentence to aid in retaining the word. My children generally find vocabulary frames fun to use and they are definitely more helpful than jotting down the definition of the word alone.

2. Creating a Word Web

We all know a spider web. A word wed is well, a web of words. There are a few ways that word-webbing can be done. A web can be created with words which are synonyms (words with similar meanings) such as the one below from the Visual Thesaurus. You may even add in words of opposite meanings by colour-coding the lines in red. 

A delightful word web from the Visual Thesaurus.

A delightful word web from the Visual Thesaurus.

Another way to create a word web is to create a web which focuses on prefixes(a series of letters added before a base word), suffixes(added after a base word) or root words (words that carry the main meaning but usually are unable to stand alone). To increase my children's level of interest, I describe these bits of a word to my children as codes in a puzzle(a new word). Knowing these codes give them a chance to make a good guess on the meaning of the words. Following which, I will show them familiar and also new words containing the affixes or root word we have learnt and have them decode it like a puzzle. 

Below is a table of some common prefixes that can be used to start a web.

Table of common prefixes. Source: Learning Tasks 

Table of common prefixes. Source: Learning Tasks 

One feature of word webs which I really like is how the web can keep growing whenever a new word is learnt. By coming up with webs that begin with a prefix, suffix or root word, children will be able to organise the new words in a systematic and purposeful manner. In addition, they can revise and build on previous knowledge which makes learning very much a connected process. It is also easy for them to look for a recent word that they have learnt by referring to the webs.

Word web on the re- prefix.

Word web on the re- prefix.

3. Using Analogies

An analogy shows the relationship between words. Hence, analogies are a good way for pupils to extend their understanding of a word and also to make meaningful links to help them remember the meaning of a word better. Here are some common analogies and you may try and string them in a sentence to demonstrate their relationship to your child. (E.g. Coffee is a type of drink; a sleeve is part of a shirt.)

Category: coffee:drink :: tiger:animal

Synonym: delighted:pleased :: dry:arid

Antonym: dry:wet :: capture:release

Part to Whole: sleeve:shirt :: finger:hand

Object to Use: pencil:write :: brush:paint

Product to Producer: fire:lighter :: milk:cow

You may work with your child to substitute a corner of the vocabulary frame with an analogy. This is also a good way to go through the new words with your child by asking them to write you some analogies beside their list of words to demonstrate their understanding.

The three ways shared above are steps that your child can take to learn about the new words they come across during reading. One particular study has shown that for a word to be learnt and understood, a group of children needed exposure to the word twelve times! Hence, constant revision and exposure to the words being used in different contexts is something we will need to work towards after these steps. However, sparking off the curiosity and helping your child to make links between the new and the old will definitely help him/her get started on the right(and more interesting) foot in building a rich vocabulary.

Do your children have other ways of learning the new words that they come across during reading? Do share these good learning practices by leaving a comment!

If you are thinking of growing your library of children books, you can view our recommended list by our lil' ones and teachers. These are children books we love, and once you have read them, you will fall in love too.

Lily Chew

An English tutor on a mission to educate children; a blogger with a passion to share and grow the love of English with the world.