Three Ways to Boost Vocabulary

boost vocabulary

Three Ways to Boost Vocabulary

Improving literacy skills can often be a complicated proposition. Successful readers and writers use a combination of several skills such as print awareness, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension skills, grammar, and spelling to be able to both understand and create meaningful text. Improving a student’s overall literacy skill-set requires a multifaceted approach that deals with the individual skills as well as practice putting the skills together.

Of all of these skills, vocabulary is literacy’s toolbox. The more words a child knows, the more that child can understand and the more ways that child can express him or herself. In this article, let’s start improving literacy skills by focusing on three ways you can boost a child’s vocabulary.

1. Reading

The most common way to boost vocabulary, regardless of a student’s age or skill level, is to read. With a greater exposure to text comes a greater number of new vocabulary words that have an opportunity to be absorbed into regular use. Be ensuring that a child is reading materials at an appropriate Lexile level for their abilities, you can be sure that the child is being exposed to text they can handle independently. This level-focused approach means that the new vocabulary in these texts can often be understood based upon the context clues of the text itself. The reader has enough prior knowledge to decode these new words and therefore has a greater chance of absorbing them regular use.

Additionally, with the advent of electronic reading environments like e-readers and digital reading apps, the ability to retrieve definitions for new words is easier than ever. In most cases, simply highlighting or tapping on a word on one of these devices brings up the option for the reader to get a definition instantly.  By sharing these features with a child, you can increase their reading independence and help boost their vocabulary simultaneously.

2. Vocabulary Games

Gamifying the process of vocabulary building can be a fun way to help develop a child’s language skills. Using free flashcard sites like Quizlet, you can create tailored sets of words for your child to practice in a variety of different ways. After adding in a list of words and definitions, the list can be used in a beat-the-clock style matching game or a more arcade-like recall game called Gravity. Quizlet even lets you save the list to use later or assign it to a full class of students.

For a more offline approach, many classic games can be tweaked to become vocabulary builders. You could create offline options like Sight Word Bingo, or get creative with your own spin on the party game HeadBanz. Struggling to come up with ideas of your own? Check out this list of other vocabulary game variations you could try. These games are a great way to improve literacy at home or in the classroom.

3. A Word a Day

There is something to be said for deliberate practice. Using a traditional “Word-A-Day” calendar or a digital equivalent (like’s Word of the Day or Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day) can be a great way to improve vocabulary.  Try to infuse a daily word into a classroom morning meeting or a mealtime discussion.

To take it to the next level, pair this practice with a journal where the new words can be recorded along with definitions and an example sentence. Doing this digitally in a spreadsheet can create a sortable and searchable database that can be a handy reference down the line when it comes time to put the new words into practice!

Whatever methods you choose, improving vocabulary is a key component in improving overall literacy. Making vocabulary building a purposeful activity can reap benefits across disciplines and help foster effective language growth and development.

What are some of your favorite ways to improve vocabulary? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

About Sheldon S

Sheldon Soper is a ten year veteran of the teaching profession and currently serves as a junior high school teacher in southern New Jersey. His primary focus is building reading, writing, and research skills in his students. He holds two degrees from Rutgers University: a B.A. in History as well as a M.Ed. in Elementary Education. He holds teaching certifications in English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Elementary Education. Sheldon has also worked as a tutor for grades ranging from second through high school in a wide variety of subjects including reading, writing, calculus, chemistry, algebra, and test prep. In addition to his teaching career, Sheldon is also a content writer for a variety of education, technology, and parenting websites.