Vocabulary building in young learners

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1. In the young child, a single word may constitute a considerable degree of meaning. T/F

This is true. The ability to use words is partly tied to the young child’s ongoing cognitive development, so the use words will have a degree of meaning. Thus, for a child, a word stands for a concept, but that concept is open to interpretation in that they select a category of relatively similar objects and apply the lexical item throughout. A child can learn the word dog or as a young child puts it ‘doggy’. This refers to a four-legged animal. This word can exist for any type of dog either big or small or type of breed. For example, a dog may refer to beagles and scotties, but not to poodles. This aspect of children’s thought associates a word with an object, but they may then in future use that word to describe a number of other similar objects in their environment. The child can also use the word ‘doggy to mean ‘there is a dog’ Notwithstanding, it can mean ‘come here’ said with a rising tone. Young children tend to utilize rising intonation to signal yes-no questions.

2. Words categories and concepts normally exist in isolation from each other. T/F

This is false. Words do not live in isolation, individual words can be categorised in many ways that remove the word from the original meaning or at least a child’s only idea of the meaning. The word ‘game’ can be attached to words such as card (game), ball (game), Olympic (games) and also football (game). As such the Olympic Games conjure up thoughts of many competitors from around the world competing together, although a ball game can involve one person banging a ball against a wall. This looks at two ends of the game spectrum. Winning the Olympic Games has men and women getting gold medals; the ball game respectively has no winner or loser. Furthermore the game of poker has skills of a different kind compared to kicking a football around the football pitch as well as less physical energy.

3. Vocabulary development comprises of at least three stages. T/F

This is true. Word learning is the product of a set of cognitive and linguistic stages that include the ability to acquire concepts, an appreciation of syntactic cues to meaning, and a rich understanding of the mental states of other people. These capacities are powerful and early emerging. Firstly the child must make sense of new vocabulary. When words are first met by young learners, there are concepts which are given labels in English may be new to the child, or only partially developed. The teacher or parent may not be merely teaching vocabulary, but teaching concepts. The labels and concepts need to be incorporated into schemas that already exist. The child has to learn this new vocabulary. Learning and retaining new vocabulary is made easier by grouping words together into families. While learning all this new vocabulary the child has to retain and recall this vocabulary for the various situation they will find themselves in. The single most effective way of helping students build vocabulary is by increasing the amount that they read. The child revisits the groups of words; adding to them and reorganising them provide ways of giving learners both the repetition and the development that is needed as they grow into English through the primary years and stages.

4. All languages have the same relationship between time and tense. T/F

This is false. Various countries of different lexis in different parts of the world that have relatively little contact with each other, will have experienced a different environment. Each country will invent words for the things in its environment that matter to it, and naturally, they find words for different things in their country. England has four seasons, other countries have three. Some countries are dark for many months. Learners from different countries don’t have some words in their vocabulary because they have never encountered such aspects of life.  Basically, the learners have to develop categories and concepts for the new words they encounter. For this situation, when children encounter new words teachers need to provide the support for understanding. New vocabulary needs to be presented in a context that helps the child understand the meanings and associations that help explain time and tense.

5. Where possible we should draw upon as many of the senses as possible when teaching vocabulary. T/F

This is true. Children learn words by seeing, feeling, tasting, listening, enjoying and experiencing. These various means at a teacher disposal bring the reality of words to the fore. For example, a child can know the word ‘apple’ but this does not show the learner every aspect of the object. They can learn that it is a fruit and other fruits are in the same family. They can see pictures of apples so they see the shapes and colours. They can eat an apple then they know the taste and feel. Is it soft? Is it hard? They can be shown that the apple starts going rotten after a while, but it is also good for your health before going rotten. An apple pie can be cooked for the child to show how apples can be used. Granny Smith apples come from England. Other apples come from other countries. They can go to a field trip and see apples growing. The child realizes they grow in trees. They can go shopping at a supermarket and buy apples. They can be shown they are bought in weight.

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