How to Support School Age Vocabulary Skills


How to support vocabulary skills at home for school age children:

General strategies to help support vocabulary:

  • Please be patient and give your child time to respond.
  • Children with vocabulary/word-finding difficulties may appear to wander off the topic or ‘talk around the houses’. You can help by gently reminding them about the conversational topic and steering them back on course.
  • If your child is struggling to tell you something you can prompt themby asking more specific questions:
  • Who was there?
  • Where were you?
  • When did it happen?
  • What happened?
  • What happened at the end?
  • If your child is struggling to recall a specific word then you can help by:
  • Giving 2 alternatives e.g. is it a guitar or a violin
  • Saying the initial sound of the word e.g. it starts with g
  • Prompt your child to think about the category/group that the word belongs to e.g. are you thinking of an instrument?
  • Asking questions about it?  what size is it? what does it look like? What do you do with it? Etc
  • Discussing the word in this way will often prompt your child to remember and be able to say it.


Vocabulary Games:

  • Odd one out – place three pictures on the table (these can be drawn), two that are related and one that isn’t. Ask your child to state which picture is the odd one out and explain why, e.g. pig, cow, table.
  • Opposites – the challenger in the game has to think of a word and say it out loud. The second player has to think of the opposite for this word. If they do think of the opposite then they get to be the challenger.
  • Think of a thing – give a category e.g. animals. Take turns to think of an animal in that category. The turns keep going until you cannot think of another word.
  • Category generation – give a subcategory e.g. fruits. Tell your child that they have 30 seconds to think of as many fruits as possible. The child that can come up with the most in the time is the winner.
  • Semantic deduction – select a picture or think of something. Don’t show the picture or tell them what you’re thinking of, but begin to give them clues about it. See whether your child can guess what the picture is/ what you’re thinking of. 
  • Headbandz game – this is a commercially available game but you can use post it notes on your forehead instead. Each person writes / draws a character, animal, fruit etc on their post it notes. Once they have done this they place that post it notes on another person’s head. That person then has to guess what it is by asking questions such as what does it do, what does it look like, where does it go etc
  • What do we do with it? – show your child a picture or an item and ask him to explain what we do with it
  • Things that go together – place a picture on the table or say a word. Ask your child to tell you something that goes with it e.g. target = bucket answer = sand, spade etc
  • Fill in the blank – give A a sentence but omit one word from it e.g. I went to the (beach) and built sandcastles.
  • Mind maps – give your child a picture in the middle of a page, e.g. the beach, school, the park, a topic from school, a story you’ve read. Encourage your child to talk about all of the things that he knows linked to the picture, Let your child draw / write these on the map and then discuss how they link together. Try and draw your child’s attention to the links between the words and the themes that they are coming up with.
  • Word Map- choose a word. Encourage your child to think of all of the attributes of the word, e.g. how many syllables, what does it start with etc- see attached.
  • Blockbusters – there is an interactive web game that has some quizzes made up  You can also make up your own quizzes on this site and submit them if you are specifically targeting some words. 
  • I spy – play this in the traditional way as it encourages your child to think about the sounds at the beginning of the word.