How to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary for PSLE English
Vocabulary makes up an important part of the Primary English syllabus. From cloze passages to comprehension passages and essays, students are expected to have built up a sizeable vocabulary by the time they are in Primary Six. An extensive vocabulary not only increases students’ coherence when expressing themselves, but also adds colour and flair to one’s writing. It is never too late for your child to pick up some new words to add to their vocabulary collection – they only have to start now!
Is your child an avid reader, or has it been forever since they picked a book up? One of the most sure-fire ways to improve one’s vocabulary is to read widely. Don’t just stick to one or two genres, either – be sure to choose a variety of works, including fiction and non-fiction, factual articles and narratives, newspapers and books, and even prose and poetry. It is also a good idea to read from a variety of contexts and authors. Different writers have a different arsenal of vocabulary, and different words are used in varying contexts. For example, some words and phrases are more archaic and usually only used in older contexts, while others are more colloquial and spoken more often by modern youngsters. Knowing this can equip your child with the vocabulary needed to write in different styles. By exposing your child to a good selection of works, they can learn numerous sets of vocabulary to be used in any situation.
Keep a Vocabulary Journal
Coming across new vocabulary is one thing, but these words can easily be forgotten especially if the mind simply glosses over them because they are unfamiliar. If one does not keep a record of the words they have not yet learned, these words may be lost as time goes by.
For maximum learning, have your child keep a notebook and a dictionary close by while they read. Whenever they come across a word or phrase that they do not understand, have them look it up in the dictionary, and then write the word and its definition in the notebook. In this way, your child gets to practice writing the word immediately, and also have a handy compilation of all the new words they have learned. As such, it is easy to refer back to their word list and look through their stash of new vocabulary as and when it is needed.
Practice Using New Words
As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. One can memorise an entire dictionary, but it will do no good if they do not know how to use the vocabulary they have learned. Additionally, PSLE English consists of closed-book papers, so students are not allowed to look up the usage of any words. To be able to effectively use new vocabulary, one has to practice using it in their everyday life and get comfortable with it. If they are not already doing it, encourage your child to cultivate the habit of writing daily. They do not have to be writing tons of essays – even keeping a simple diary or journal about their daily life can help to reinforce their writing ability and vocabulary usage. You can also get your child to use new words in their everyday speech. Not only does this help them to learn the contexts in which to use the vocabulary they have learned, but it also boosts their oral skills and fluency.
Learn a New Word Every Day
Cramming a whole dictionary’s worth of vocabulary overnight is not going to leave your child remembering much. It is much easier to remember words by taking them one step at a time, or in our context, one word a day. Many online dictionaries have a “word of the day” where they introduce a less-known word, its definition, and its usage. This can be a great place to start if you are not sure where to begin. Alternatively, you could pick out a few more challenging words for your child, and teach them one new word each day. Be sure to incorporate the word into your everyday life so that your child will know how to use it by heart.
Learn Frequently Used Words First
On top of learning vocabulary from various contexts, many educators maintain that language is best learned the more frequently it is used. This means that instead of going for some obscure, archaic vocabulary used only in a different neck of the woods, it is easier and more beneficial to learn words that are frequently used in one’s everyday life. For example, a foreigner can pick up Singlish phrases much easier when they hear them in the marketplace and hawker centres every day, as compared to studying a list of dialect words that are almost never used locally. The same goes for new vocabulary. Just by learning the most common words used in our daily context, students will gain an extensive enough vocabulary to express themselves with ease!