Learning new vocabulary

Dear Parents/Guardians,

We are targeting vocabulary development as part of our literacy plan this year.  This is as a result of identified weaknesses in the standardised test scores in this area in June 2016 and also as part of the implementation of the new primary language curriculum.

Perhaps the greatest tools we can give children for succeeding, not only in their education but more generally in life, is a large, rich vocabulary and the skills for using those words.  In addition to this a large vocabulary is more specifically predictive and reflective of high levels of reading achievement.

Poor vocabulary affects the children’s comprehension of what they read.  Writing a word into a copybook, looking up its meaning, finding words with similar meaning or putting the words into sentences will not ensure that the word becomes part of their vocabulary.  In order to do this, children need to use the new vocabulary that they are learning on numerous occasions and hear the words used regularly in everyday conversation. 

Another way of improving your child’s vocabulary is to read to them regularly. Once a child is able to read we have a tendency to stop reading to them as we want them to practice their own reading.  However, the books that children can read for themselves are, of necessity, simpler than those that you would read to them.  Therefore they are not necessarily coming across new or challenging vocabulary in their own reading.  This is why it is so important that we do not stop reading to our children, even when they can read for themselves.  This is especially true for children who are finding reading a bit challenging or who are reluctant readers.

By reading to them, you are helping them in many ways: 1) You are modelling good reading to them. (It is important, especially for boys, to have both male and female role models if at all possible) 2) You are developing their interest in reading. 3) You are motivating them to want to read themselves as they see that you consider reading important.  4) You are improving their comprehension as they can focus on the story rather than trying to decode words. 5) You are improving their vocabulary as you are exposing them to vocabulary that they will not otherwise come across. (You need to discuss, even briefly, the meanings of new words while reading for this to be most effective)

Vocabulary Homework:

As part of their homework each night, pupils from 3rd to 6th class have to use the words they have written in their vocabulary copybooks and pupils from Junior Infants to 2nd class have to use the 2 words in their Homework diary by bringing them into the conversation at home and at school over the course of the week,  in as many different ways and as many times as possible.  It is only through using the words that they will actually become part of your child’s vocabulary. It would be a good idea to place these words in a visible place (such as on the fridge) so that everyone in the family will use them in their conversation.

Thank you, in anticipation of your cooperation,

K Devine

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