A fun way to learn vocabulary is to review homophones, or words with multiple meanings. Starting in second grade, teachers will begin to introduce words with multiple meanings. Go through each word, such as bat or ball, and discuss all the various meanings of the word. Have students make sentences with the word, with its various meanings. While reading, have students discuss what they think the meaning of a word is based on the contextual cues. Here is a list of common words with multiple meanings that students will encounter in elementary school. There are also great activities and worksheets that you can use here!
It is not realistic to directly address all vocabulary words that students have difficulty with. Focusing on strategies, including learning the meaning of common prefixes and suffixes, is an excellent way to empower students to figure out word meaning. In therapy, we will discuss common prefixes and suffixes of the student’s grade level, or reading level, if that is more appropriate. We will talk about common words with that prefix or suffix. As homework assignments, I may have the student look for words in reading materials with the prefix and suffix that we worked on, and have them try to figure out the word meaning based on their knowledge of the prefix or suffix. In my observation, students really enjoy learning these strategies because they feel like they are solving a mini mystery and they feel empowered. Here is a the best list that I have found for prefixes and suffixes, based on grade level.
Learning basic concepts are very important in helping your child understand and follow through on directions given in the classroom setting. By learning these words, your child will also become more descriptive in his or her verbal expression. Some basic concepts that kindergarten and first graders will have to know include: front/back, between, beside, behind, above, and below. These are fun to work on because they can be learned easily in a natural setting. Here are some ways you can build in these concepts in a natural setting:
While writing: You can talk about what letters go above or below the lines.
While reading: You can talk about words that are in the center, or in the middle of the book.
You can also use body parts to reinforce concepts: What is in the middle of your face? What is above your mouth? What is below your nose? What is between your eyes?
While walking or playing: Walk in front of me. Stand beside me.
Some other basic concepts for first graders include: first/last, wide/narrow, longer/shorter, part/whole, closer/farther, thin/thick, similarities/differences
One great way to increase vocabulary and cognitive skills in your child is to teach them association or categorization skills. By doing so, your child will increase his/her ability to distinguish between similar or different items, and learn how to think more critically about why something belongs or why it doesn’t. The website below allows your child to categorize items based on the place that you would usually find them. You can name the items with your child to work on vocabulary. Ask your child why certain items belong, and why certain items do not belong. If your child can not answer accurately, you can help by starting a sentence and having your child fill it in. For example, you could say: “The pan belongs in the restaurant because the chef needs it to ___.”
Teaching early association skills, such as items that belong and items that do not belong, will be important from kindergarten through first grade. Learning how to associate items will build your child’s language abilities and increase early problem solving skills. These two apps will work really well with young children: Which Does Not Belong and Which go together. You can get them from Kindergarten.com.
Which Does Not Belong: Your young child will probably need assistance to understand how to answer questions on this app. First, label the four items on the screen along with your child. For very young children, I will often ask them: Which one is not a ____ ? This will give your child opportunities to also learn how to answer questions containing negation (e.g., the word “not” in the question), which are usually difficult for language delayed children to pick up. After your child answers correctly, you can say: A book is not a food item. It is a ____.”
Which Go Together: Like the app mentioned above, you can label the pictures with your child. If your child can not answer the question independently, you can identify one of the associated items, and ask your child: What goes with the ___? The App will then ask your child why the items go together. If your child has a difficult time answering, you can start the sentence off for your child. For example, you could say: The bacon and the pan go together because you use the pan to _________. This will give your child a model on how to answer your questions.