Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Vocabulary is one of the main components of the Primary School English syllabus. It is therefore important for you to expand your vocabulary if you are a primary school student.
Knowing a great variety of words is helpful when writing compositions too. Have you ever experienced situations when you wanted to say something but just could not find the right words to express yourself? It is frustrating, isn’t it?
To help students write better, we need to provide ways for them to increase the number of words in their ‘vocabulary library’.
We have prepared these 300 vocabulary cards for our students. These are words that students can use in their English compositions. They include phrases to describe characters’ feelings, as well as vivid verbs to describe actions.
The following are a few practical ways for children to widen their range of vocabulary.
1. Read widely.
Reading is a wonderful way to expand your vocabulary. When you are reading, you will inevitably come across words and phrases that are new to you. The good thing about encountering such new words and phrases during reading is that you are able to learn their meaning in context. Most of the time, you will be able to guess the meaning of some of these new words and phrases, based on the context of the story.
2. Look up the meaning of new and unfamiliar words.
If you are not able to guess the meaning of new and unfamiliar words, it is always a good idea to check the dictionary. Whenever my own children come across words that are unfamiliar to them, I usually get them to look up the meaning in the dictionary.
A favourite online dictionary for children is the Learners’ Dictionary. What I like about this online dictionary is the simple definition provided. There is a section on Vocabulary too, where the editors have identified 3,000 core vocabulary for learners.
3. Use the new words you have learnt as soon as possible.
To retain the new words and phrases learnt, look for the soonest possible opportunity to use them. The more you use those new words, either in speech or writing, the easier it is to retain them.
4. Learn one or two new words or phrases a day.
A more direct way of expanding your vocabulary is to proactively learn one or two new words a day. You can get a vocabulary notebook or journal and write down one to two new words each day. Look up the meaning of those new words and form a sentence with each. If possible, use them in your writing or conversations during the day. You can get new words from story books you are reading or any vocabulary lists available. Print out this ‘Reading With A Purpose’ sheet to help you write down new words from the books you are reading.
5. Write more.
Writing forces you to put your thoughts into words. When you are writing, you have to look for the correct words and phrases to express yourself. This makes writing one of the most practical ways to use your vocabulary. Without a good range of vocabulary, your writing is limited.
Another useful exercise to do after writing, is to underline those words that you can replace. Think of another word that you can use instead. This challenges you to dig into your mental library of words for synonyms or less commonly used words. This leads us to the next point.
6. Use new words in your writing.
Now, when you are writing, do not just write with words that you are comfortable using. Explore new ways of expressing your thoughts and ideas. Ask yourself, “Is there a better way of expressing this? Is there a better word or phrase to use?” Constantly remind and challenge yourself to use the new words that you have learnt when you are writing.
For example, if you have always used the word ‘excited’, challenge yourself to use other words or phrases to describe excitement. How about ‘enthusiastic’, ‘exhilarated’ or ‘bright eyed and bushy tailed’?
Here is another example. If you have always used the word ‘delicious’ to describe food, challenge yourself to use a different word or description, such as, ‘sumptuous’, ‘savoury’ or ‘flavourful’.
Note that the words do not have to be bombastic or complicated. Very often, simple words can create vivid descriptions.
7. Use specific adjectives, verbs and nouns instead of general ones.
Make it a point to use specific words in your writing and speech. It is easy to use general terms as you do not have to put much thought to it. For example, it is effortless to describe something as ‘nice’. However, what do you mean by ‘nice’?
Using specific terms forces you to search in your library of words for the most suitable word or phrase.
For example, instead of describing a movie, cake or dress as ‘nice’, use specific adjectives, such as ‘a captivating movie’, ‘a beautifully-decorated cake’ or ‘a stunning or attractive dress’.
Besides adjectives, use specific verbs (or vivid verbs) to describe actions.
For example, instead of ‘Jack ate his lunch’, use a specific verb to describe the way he ate. Such as,
Jack gobbled up his lunch.
Jack nibbled at his lunch.
Jack swallowed his lunch.
Notice that each verb conveys a different meaning and paints a different image in the readers’ minds.
It takes effort to widen your range of vocabulary. However, the effort you put in is worthwhile when you see your storehouse of words growing by the day and your writing improving!