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How to improve vocabulary (Y2)

(24 Posts)
ToohotforaSeptday Fri 13-Jan-17 10:11:42

Hi everyone, my son is a good reader (year 2) and loves reading. I get him a decent range of books to try. He likes Jack Stalwart and Beast Quest recently although I mix in some children classics for him too.

I am starting to see the influence of his reading to come through into his writing in terms of increase in variety in sentence structures. However he seems to not to retain new words that well. I know that the best way perhaps is to write down a few new words everyday and go through them regularly, but DS reads rather fast (probably too fast) so will be very unwilling to do this on his own and I am keen to avoid make reading a chore. His spelling is rather weak atm too.

In your experience did the vocabulary/spellings came through osmosis or did your DC has to work actively on that? The school spelling list only start this year and is still on very basic curriculum words so no help there. Will be grateful for any ideas!

bojorojo Fri 13-Jan-17 10:33:25

Vocabulary came through talk, visiting new places and describing what we saw, where we had been and what we had been doing. Everything we did, we talked about it. We asked our DDs to tell us what they saw and we talked using proper words, not made-up words. We read things other than books, although books were important too. So anywhere we went we read signs, menus, booklets, anything that was available. We did not actively work on vocabulary with lists of words (although the school sent them home) because that does not always produce understanding or context of the words - it is just words.

So if you go out at weekends, think where you can go to talk about what you see. A museum, a steam railway, the park, the zoo, anywhere that gives additional vocabulary. Think of words, together, that describe what you are seeing. At least that way, it is more fun!

ToohotforaSeptday Fri 13-Jan-17 10:44:25

That is really good advice "bojorojo"! We do go out often but I admit we don't talk enough and probably was too focus on doing things the "academic" way. Both me and my husband are reasonablely well educated but not native English speakers, and we were very surprised by the standard of English the children achieved by year 1. I have to look up lots of words on my phone when reading with him, which I never thought would be necessary until maybe year 4. It is therefore a bit tough for us to extend his vocabulary by talking especially those words useful in story writing, as they probably don't exist in my vocabulary. We also have to talk to him in our native tongue to keep that up as he has almost switched to communicate completely in English. But try we will, and probably it will be a learning together experience. Thanks again as it is definitely good advice.

Ginmummy1 Fri 13-Jan-17 11:13:06

Agree with everything Bojorojo has suggested. We used to have an issue with DD rushing when reading out loud to us, and she’d sigh when I asked her what a word actually meant. Irvineoneohone suggested an electronic dictionary bookmark which DD loves to use, and this has made new vocab a game – often she’ll look up a word but not understand the description as it contains a new word (or one she doesn’t truly understand), so she’ll look up that word, and so on. She happily uses it on her own – some mornings she’ll say she’s explored a couple of new words while reading the previous night.

Sometimes we’ll ask her to suggest synonyms (and antonyms) and make a game of this too. Like Bojo we’ve never used ‘baby’ names for words or invented words, and we have always encouraged correct speech from an early age ('th' for example) and correct language ('would of' corrected to 'would have') and we would often comment out loud that someone has used a particular word but another word would have been better. A favourite before bedtime is “are you procrastinating, or are you prevaricating?” I realise that probably makes us sound like geeky pedants, but DD hears us delight in the richness of language and enjoys it too. I'm sure it all helps.

Ginmummy1 Fri 13-Jan-17 11:17:44

I didn't read your response before I wrote mine. If you're not native English speakers, making the dictionary and thesaurus fun is probably a good place to focus. I do really recommend the electronic dictionary bookmark.

If he has lots of exposure to two languages he has a wonderful opportunity in life.

bojorojo Fri 13-Jan-17 13:58:32

I think, as you are bilingual, learn together as you suggest. He will, I suspect, not learn with identical speed in both languages but he will improve his English with being at school and definitely go out more, talk in English, and have fun as well as using the electronic dictionary.

ToohotforaSeptday Fri 13-Jan-17 14:41:42

Thanks ginmummy and bojorojo! Will get an electronic dictionary to try, are there any particularly ones you would recommend?

mrz Fri 13-Jan-17 17:52:18


Ashers40 Sat 14-Jan-17 17:32:16

There is something called Mrs Wordsmith that keeps appearing on my FB feed which is a website for improving children's vocabulary (age 7-11). It's not free, of course. I don't know anything about it or if it's any good but it looks interesting and is highly visual which appeals to children.

ToohotforaSeptday Sat 14-Jan-17 21:05:39

Thanks Mrz that's interesting I supposed we will move forward with a two prong approach, both with speaking and reading.

Ashers40 Thanks for your suggestion! I have got some promotional items from them and they do look highly professional. I would have just order and try normally but it is so so pricy! Maybe I will start another thread to see if anyone has any experience of it and it's effectiveness.

mrz Sat 14-Jan-17 21:21:51


mrz Sat 14-Jan-17 21:23:25!.ppt

BigWeald Sat 14-Jan-17 21:27:28

This is interesting, my DS is also in Y2, currently enjoys Beast Quest and Jack Stalwart books, and is bilingual with both parents being non-native English speakers (though I am pretty close, as I grew up bilingually myself with English as the minority language).

So far I figured he will pick up the vocabulary 'automatically' given that he reads a lot. No, he won't understand every new word he encounters, but will make an interpretation from context, and after having encountered it a few times, will have a good idea of what it means. If I remember correctly, that is pretty much how I learned most of my vocabulary, in both my languages.

I figured I'd leave 'direct instruction' to school.

Also I found that recently, DS quite often asks what a word means in conversation. And even when I 'know' exactly what the word is, and can give him the translation, that is, the same word in our other language, I still often can't explain it very well to him. I used that word because that is the word that fits the situation, and it is not the same as any other word I could have used; perhaps 'a bit like ...' but still different. The nuances of word meanings and word usages IMO can't really be explained but must be 'experienced'.

After reflection triggered by this thread though I think we'll get one of those electronic dictionary bookmark thingies, and see how he gets on with it. The thought process being: Yes he will pick up a lot of vocab from reading and will work out what the words mean, but to compare with other children, they will do this too but will ALSO reinforce that understanding of words in their conversations with their parents. Whereas we do our very best to speak to the kids in our home language as much as possible, as they won't pick that up casually anywhere else.
So we'll give the dictionary a go, but if it turns out to be to the detriment of his enjoyment of reading, we won't push it.

Seeing as your DS seems to be into similar books, anything else you can recommend?
Our DS seems to also like Flying Fergus, Astrosaurs, The Secret Rescuers; today he devoured his first 'Time Hunters' book; he's keen on the idea of Fizzlebert Stump but hasn't started yet. Really enjoyed The Enchanted Wood series (Enid Blyton) and some Roald Dahl but those he very much wanted to share, so they mostly ended up being on the 'us reading to him' pile.

Ginmummy1 Sat 14-Jan-17 22:03:07

The one we got was this one: Electronic Dictionary Bookmark

sirfredfredgeorge Sat 14-Jan-17 22:28:53

* No, he won't understand every new word he encounters, but will make an interpretation from context, and after having encountered it a few times, will have a good idea of what it means.*

DD gave me a definition once of attic it's a room like a basement, used to store all your junk. Which was of course a good definition and possibly even a more useful than the dictionary one which she didn't know (had no idea that it was in a specific area of a house.)

Doesn't mean a dictionary isn't a great idea of course, but I think the context the word is used does carry a lot of use too.

Ashers40 Sun 15-Jan-17 01:23:30

We have tried the bookmark dictionary, I don't think in reality either of my children made much use of it. If your child reads aloud to you it's helpful too ask them to stop when they come across a word they don't know and ask the meaning. Then get them to re read the sentence once they know the meaning. In this way I think it's more likely to stick. Having said that, as a child I was an avid reader, I don't remember asking my mum much about words I didn't know, but somehow through context, and experience and continual reading my vocabulary improved. The answer is - read as much as you can, it can only ever be a positive thing

SoFedUpOfPeople Sun 15-Jan-17 01:30:19

My older Ds used vocabulary . Com which we loaded with the 11+ words.

Having a dd in year two though, this thread scares the shit out of me!

MrsNuckyThompson Sun 15-Jan-17 08:42:11

I think it is very common for bilingual children to be slightly slower in picking up and using language because they are doing everything twice. This levels out and then of course he then has the super advantage of another in the bag. Sounds as though you're doing everything right, don't stress!

user1484226561 Sun 15-Jan-17 09:47:55

if he is speaking only one language, just talk to him. I don't understand why you consider this "moving him forward" rather than normal family life!!

if he is speaking two, this needs closer monitoring, as children who don't cope with two can end up seriously disabled, effectively not having a first language at all, just two which are second languages, and may never communicate easily, even into adult hood.

If this is your concern, and seems to be happening, drop one language back, and focus on the other for all your reading and conversations.

jamdonut Sun 15-Jan-17 18:55:45

I think, never assume that your child understands a new or complicated word, even if they managed to read it correctly.
When reading together, ask them if they understand what a word means.
Encourage them to ask what words mean if they're not sure.

And if YOU are not sure, don't be afraid to say so, and then look it up together! There is absolutely no shame in that!

In year 2, we encourage the use of (age appropriate) dictionaries and thesauruses in connection with writing, as well as giving a word bank on the board to use, especially with topic work.

Ferguson Sun 15-Jan-17 19:13:56

For confident readers I sometimes recommend what I call "Value Added" books, that is they have an aspect in addition to just reading a story.

The best one is Arthur Ransome's "Coot Club" set on the Norfolk Broads in 1930. All the places in the book are actual locations, and can be found on the Ordnance Survey 2-1/2inch map of the Broads. So checking the locations - and all the villages, rivers, lakes, pubs and windmill pumping stations can be seen on the map, can help bring the story and the period 'to life'. Apart from some railways being closed, and there now being more main roads, little has changed. Google maps for the Broads will show you what I mean, and Street View can be used to 'move around' the area.

The story also gives interesting insights to the social history of the '30s: the children want to contact friends in a nearby village, and say if they post a letter in the morning, it will get there by the second post in the afternoon! When they buy provisions at a riverside shop, the shop-boy carries the goods down to their boat for them.

Another book in a 'real' place, is "Watership Down". The rabbits' home threatened by development is actually on the outskirts of Newbury, in Berkshire. There are several web sites about the locations, and even guided tours sometimes to places featured in the book.

Greenleave Sun 15-Jan-17 21:06:58

Op, for a bilingual family which you want your child to speak your native language well then my advice is do not speak to him in English, its always easier to learn to read and write English well than your native language. Regarding to vocabulary build up, accept the fact that he is bilingual so at first he will appear as little less comprehensive than monolingual children, you will notice the gap starts to get narrow from year 1 then around year 3, they will catch up and if having a good memory and read well they will build up their vocabulary. We are bilingual family too and we never teach our children English and/or rarely speak to them in English, bed time story is 2/3 in our native language too. My year 4 does well with her writting mainly due to her love of reading. We fill our house with books. We discuss about the books she read(again in our native), she always has her primary dictionary thesaurus to check for unknown words. Her English standardised score last year was 137.

irvineoneohone Sun 15-Jan-17 22:43:35

My ds get sublimely magnificent(his favorite phrase) vocabulary from playing game! And lots of reading, of course.

ToohotforaSeptday Mon 16-Jan-17 10:25:31

Lots of really helpful suggestions, thank you! BigWeald, my DS is reading The Iron Man and the Harry the poisonous centipede series. He also like a book called The Foolish King at the moment, which is about chess. Maybe we will move on to the secret seven next if he likes them. Unfortunately he is very resistant to reading Dahl, he is very sensitive compared even to his little sibling!

This year the weekend school for our native language has stepped up a gear and the work is truly challenging for DS. I think the English vocabulary enrichment will have to come from daily life for us, and I need to be a bit more conscious of using new words often. Have to remind myself not to compare him with monolingual children. His comprehension is good and I am sure he will naturally catch up at some point, but if I can help with that I will try.

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