Not sure how to help your child best in Year 7? In this post, we explain why boosting your child's vocabulary is an essential part of setting them up for high school. You can also join our Vocabulary Club to receive a free weekly wordlist.
Do you worry about how you can help your child succeed in the transition to High School? Do you want to know what simple, everyday things you can do to help your child thrive in Year 7 or 8? Don’t worry you’re not alone. In this post, we’ll give you 7 reasons to boost your child’s vocabulary and give you four practical methods for helping them.
At the bottom of the page, you can sign up for a weekly email where we’ll send you a weekly vocabulary list with definitions and examples from past NAPLAN exams that you can study with your child.
Vocabulary is too often overlooked as a means of helping children succeed in high school. Improving vocabulary in children is a sure-fire way of helping them develop skills across the board in school. Let’s look at 7 reasons why this is the case.
Words are the bedrock of communication. English is unique in that it incorporates words from so many different languages – Ancient Greek, Latin, German, French, Chinese, and Indian to name a few.
In addition, it contains more synonyms than any other language. This is really important.
Synonyms allow us to communicate about specific ideas with a significant level of detail.
This is an essential skill when you are trying to discuss abstract concepts like economics or art, but also when trying to explain things like physical properties or how chemicals interact.
As your child progresses through high school they’ll need to continually add to their vocabulary. This is so they can communicate their new knowledge, but more importantly, it will allow them to discuss and ask questions about things they do not understand.
Developing your vocabulary is like building a muscle.
For example, if you want to get strong, you’ll go to the gym and do regular squats. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to lift bigger weights and do more repetitions.
Learning vocabulary is the same. The more words you learn, the more information you have to draw on when trying to understand and learn new words.
Knowing words and definitions allows you to infer the context of other words and what they seem to mean. Inference is a critically important skill for all students, especially those in Years 7 and 8.
When we infer, we draw on our knowledge of other words to decode what an unknown word seems to mean. In this way, we can add new words to our vocabulary.
But we can’t do this if we don’t have a wide vocabulary. If we face too many unknowns in a sentence, then we can’t infer what it may mean.
if your child starts encountering sentences that they can’t infer the meaning of, they will miss out on knowledge and start to fall behind. This will be exacerbated if they, like most children, are reluctant to admit they don’t know something.
Comprehension and composition are central skills for studying English in high school. Students need to read a wide variety of texts and they need to compose a wide variety of texts.
As we just saw, inference is a critical skill students must possess to excel in English.
When students are given comprehension tasks, they are presented with texts that will have vocabulary intended to challenge them.
While it is not guaranteed that your child will know every word and its definition in a comprehension test, an expansive vocabulary will enable them to infer the meaning of those unknown words. This will best equip them for success in comprehension assessments.
An expansive vocabulary is also a must for writing compositions. In Years 7 and 8, students will need to write imaginative pieces – such as short stories; informative pieces – like feature articles; and persuasive pieces – like speeches and essays.
In addition, it is not enough for your child to know a lot of words, they need to know exactly what they mean and how to use them. This knowledge will enable your child to write sophisticated and concise pieces of work that convey advanced and complex ideas in a succinct and elegant way.
After all, teachers are looking for efficient communicators who can draw on an extensive vocabulary to communicate sophisticated concepts succinctly and in an accessible manner.
The broader your child’s vocabulary, the wider array of texts that they can read. If you want to instil your child with the confidence to read ahead, you want to increase their vocabulary.
As children move through the school years, they encounter ever more sophisticated and complex concepts. The language required to understand these concepts also increases in complexity.
To give your child the best possible opportunity, you need to help them increase their vocabulary.
It is important that you push your child to engage with increasingly difficult texts as they progress through school – both to learn and develop a love of reading.
But it is very important that you set them up to succeed and not to fail. You must enable them to engage with more complex texts by supporting them and making sure that they understand what they are reading.
Spending the time helping them learn new words is a central part of that.
Students who possess confidence in learning succeed more than those that don’t. This has been extensively researched and is the basis for new approaches to teaching and learning.
Recent studies have shown that increasing academic confidence improves learning outcomes. For example, a study by researchers from the National Institute of Education in Singapore found that,
confidence is a much better predictor of students’ achievements than any other non-cognitive measure in fact, it acts in a way that it overcomes everything else; so confidence is very important.
An excellent way to enable academic confidence is to help your child become a wide-reader with an extensive and active vocabulary.
A wide vocabulary will give your child confidence in approaching unfamiliar texts and unfamiliar topics. While they may initially be unfamiliar with a text or topic, an extensive vocabulary will equip them with the essential tools to tackle new and challenging topics.
The benefits of expanding your child’s vocabulary are not limited to English. Increasingly, it has become clear that language skills and ability are good predictors for children’s success in all subjects.
The ability to describe things, especially their understanding of a subject or their gaps knowledge, enables children to grow their knowledge in all subjects.
A 2018 study out of the University of Washington has found that students’ language ability – being able to apply their knowledge of vocabulary and meaning – is a key predictor to academic success.
As Assoc. Prof Amy Pace notes,
language provides a foundation for social interaction. If you’re stronger in language, you will be able to communicate with peers and teachers.
She goes on to add that “[l]anguage also relates to executive functioning, the ability to understand and follow through on the four-step directions from the teacher. And it helps solve problems in math and science, because understanding terminology and abstract concepts relies on a knowledge of language.”
In short, if you want to set your child up with language skills. And as we teach students at Matrix, central to effective communication is a strong and ever-developing vocabulary.
Standardised testing like NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) is contentious and many disagree with its efficacy.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that it is an assessment that your child will have to undergo in Years 7 and 9, just as they did in Years 3 and 5.
NAPLAN is used to see how the national cohort of students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9 perform in relation to each other in a variety of literacy and numeracy assessments.
In Year 7, students sitting NAPLAN will face two numeracy exams (one calculator and one no calculator), a comprehension test on an unseen text, a paper on language conventions and spelling, and a writing prompt where they will be asked to write either an informative, persuasive, or imaginative piece based upon a stimulus.
Similarly, the Selective Schools Test will present students with a comprehension section and a composition task.
To do well in these tasks, you need to have a strong vocabulary and a good grasp of how to apply it.
Now you know why it’s important to help boost your child’s vocabulary, let’s give you some strategies to do just that.
You know why your child needs to expand their vocabulary, but how do you do that? Let’s look at some strategies you can use at home to help your child.
The easiest and best way to help your child develop their vocabulary is to read with them. This doesn’t mean reading to them, but rather sitting with your child and reading while they read.
A good idea is to read the same book so you can talk about it. Quite a few websites like Good Reads have discussion questions for book clubs or class discussions.
Additionally, many contemporary YA fiction novels come with discussion points in an appendix at the back.
You don’t need to just read novels, either. Reading newspapers or feature articles together is an excellent way of expanding both of your vocabularies and understanding of the world.
Giving your child a vocabulary list to study is one thing, but it doesn’t guarantee they’ll actually learn or understand the words.
To help ensure that they learn the words AND how to apply them, you should discuss the words together.
For every new word your child (and you) learn you should:
If you’re looking for a list to get you started, check out our post: 20 Words Your Year 7 Child Must Know.
Spelling tests might not sound like a fun family activity, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be.
Pick an evening or afternoon each week where you can all get together and test each other’s spelling.
To make it fair and fun, pull the words from the books your children are reading but let them pick hard ones from a dictionary.
Remember, you want to encourage them!
Word games are an excellent way to improve spelling and vocabulary. Playing them as a family will take the stigma out of them and help you encourage your child to play them instead of Fortnite and Minecraft.
What games are good to play?
Scrabble – A classic game where players have seven random letters in their tray and have to make new words from them using the letters already played on the board. Players score points from using longer, more sophisticated words and lose points for misspelling words.
Upword – A variation on Scrabble that takes it into three dimensions. Rather than just building in two dimensions, players can build on top of existing words to change them into different words.
Crosswords – Doing newspaper crosswords together as a family is a fun challenge that will help you all increase your knowledge and vocabulary.
Boggle – Players roll a set of twelve dice that have letters rather than numbers. Each player writes down as many words as they can find in each set of twelve dice.
Fridge magnet games – There are a variety of different fridge magnet sets you can get, some are letters others are words (for poetry or Shakespeare). You can use these to write poems on the fridge or do impromptu spelling challenges.
Join the Matrix Vocabulary Club! Each week we’ll send you a set of five words from past Year 7 NAPLAN exams so you can test your child on what they mean, how to spell them, and how to use them!