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Can you ever do too much vocabulary?


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Can you ever do vocab too much?

 

At this point I am about to have several vocab stuff going for my kids. 

 

Do you think there is such a thing of Vocab overkill? 

 

ETA: The kids read all the time and especially at nights. Dr. Doolittle, Alice in Wonderland.  All kinds of classical books but it seems like their comprehension is being hindered by not understanding certain words. I found out that one of my daughters just sort of ignored it and would skip the word ,the whole paragraph and maybe the whole page if she didn;t understand what a word meant. Her recent testing showed serious delays in reading comprehension. We had done some vocabulary where she vocab cartoons and drew pictures and made a sentence and we did idioms study and that was about it. But her speech therapist who did testing said to do more with her as her verbal skills are also without any large vocabulary...she doesn't elaborate on anything. Short quick answers and not much more. 

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From what people tell me, DD has very advanced vocabulary. I attribute this to reading, audiobooks, and read alouds. I tried vocab programs, but they turned out a waste of money since she knows most of the words. So spending $10 to learn a handful of new words is unfeasible for us.

 

But I don't know for sure if all kids learn new words just by listening to audiobooks and reading. Maybe some kids do better with formal vocabulary study, even if they already read and listen to audiobooks.

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Yes. I think vocabulary programs are completely unnecessary.

Reading quality literature from many periods and genres and listening to high quality spoken language with a sophisticated vocabulary are far superior for building and retaining an extensive active vocabulary.

So if one were to read quality literature without understanding a good number of the words, does that not interfere with one's enjoyment of said literature? I think saying good literature is enough is akin to stating that handing over a great science textbook is enough. They have to learn what the word means at some point. Of you mean to suggest reading with a thesaurus near, yes, that is one way to do it but then I think it's not very enjoyable.

OP: we do one vocab program and also learn words that come up in our regular language arts study (which is Galore Park). And we read and are read to, of course.

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So if one were to read quality literature without understanding a good number of the words, does that not interfere with one's enjoyment of said literature? I think saying good literature is enough is akin to stations that handing over a great science textbook is enough. They have to learn what the word means at some point. Of you mean to suggest reading with a thesaurus near, yes, that is one way to do it but then I think it's not very enjoyable.

 

How do children learn language? By being exposed to language. They will not understand every word they hear spoken, or read to from a story, but over time, the words make sense in context. No child learns to speak with a Thesaurus or by memorizing a word list - they acquire their vocabulary through immersion and repeated exposure. So, why stop this at age 5? The same works throughout a person's life.

Nobody advocates reading Moby Dick to a 4 year old. Of course the quality literature that is appropriate to expand a 6 year old's vocabulary is entirely different from the literature needed to broaden the vocabulary of an already highly articulate 18 year old, but continuous exposure to spoken and written language, beginning in the early years, will produce a large vocabulary (unless there are learning difficulties, auditory processing disorders, or similar factors.)

 

I come from a country where the idea of vocabulary programs for one's native language does not exist.

 

I have never used one with my children either. My DD's standardized test scores and her performance in her upper level English courses at college at age 16 suggest that exposure through reading, audio books and adult conversation was entirely sufficient.

 

ETA: As a non native speaker I can attest that the same way of vocabulary building works very well for foreign language learners. After some initial skills and an initial repertoire of words have been acquired, the best way to expand vocabulary and retain it is not memorizing word lists, but reading. Encountering an unknown word repeatedly in different contexts will eventually make it clear what the word means, without the help of a dictionary. I agree that reading with a dictionary is complicated and joyless - the level of reading material must be carefully chosen as to not be too frustrating, just like you would select appropriate reading for a child in his native language.

This also works with spoken language.

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The two aren't mutually exclusive, filling out vocabulary worksheets all day versus picking up a book. And at a certain point, words are nuanced and not intuitive. I also learned English as a second language, went to law school in this country and still need to look up a word now and then. No shame :)

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Agreeing with previous posters -- Yes, I do think you can do too much/overkill. And yes, the vocabulary that seemed to best "stick" here was from context -- hearing it in conversation, and from loads of quality books (read alouds, books on tape, and readers). Some questions to consider:

 

- What exactly are your goals for vocabulary?

- Why is it you want to add yet another program to what you are already using? Do they each do something unique? Could they be rotated, so only one vocab resource is used per day, for a maximum of 10 minutes?

- What is "lost" by adding another program? Time for another subject? Hands-on projects? Time for personal interests?

- Is there potential of frustrating DC by doing 2, 3, 4… programs all on the same subject? Or by extending the school day unnecessarily?

 

Often times, I kept adding materials because I really didn't have clear goals. I wasn't seeing the "results" I wanted, because I wasn't sure what I wanted as results in the first place. ;) Or, adding yet another program has been a sign that what I am using is not really working and meeting my goals. In that case, rather than add yet another program to what we're doing, I'd drop what's NOT working, and substitute the new program...

 

Also, I see potential negatives by doing more than one vocab. program:

- burn-out/frustrate the student (when is it "enough", mommy?)

- burn-out/overload your time with additional grading

- takes away time that might be better spent on reading, an "elective" subject, or personal projects

 

Personally, I see vocabulary as a "support" subject to reading, speaking and writing -- NOT a core subject to spend large amounts of time on by itself. (Some time, yes, IS helpful! I'm not saying NO time.) We got most of our vocabulary through reading and read-alouds. But, we also did some roots-based vocabulary programs, which were of great help in building vocabulary and making connections. Workbooks of "random" word lists, and online drill/games, really didn't stick or build vocabulary (although the games can be fun for some types of students). Using vocabulary words as part of spelling with older students was also helpful, as it connected the spelling patterns with word origins.

 

Just my 2 cents worth! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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How do children learn language? By being exposed to language. They will not understand every word they hear spoken, or read to from a story, but over time, the words make sense in context. No child learns to speak with a Thesaurus or by memorizing a word list - they acquire their vocabulary through immersion and repeated exposure. So, why stop this at age 5? The same works throughout a person's life.

Nobody advocates reading Moby Dick to a 4 year old. Of course the quality literature that is appropriate to expand a 6 year old's vocabulary is entirely different from the literature needed to broaden the vocabulary of an already highly articulate 18 year old, but continuous exposure to spoken and written language, beginning in the early years, will produce a large vocabulary (unless there are learning difficulties, auditory processing disorders, or similar factors.)

 

I come from a country where the idea of vocabulary programs for one's native language does not exist.

 

I have never used one with my children either. My DD's standardized test scores and her performance in her upper level English courses at college at age 16 suggest that exposure through reading, audio books and adult conversation was entirely sufficient.

I also come from a country without vocab programs, but I think sheer volume of English words makes comparison inappropriate (I am not sure how English compares to Germain). I also think that being bilingual helps with vocab a lot and kids who only speak English are at a disadvantage to somebody like your DD (I am sure her knowledge of German and French helps a lot). My kids are now studying French and my 7 year old will easily tell you what an interdict means thanks to his little exposure to French. I expect his English vocab to improve tremendously as he becomes fluent in French. I also think kids a lot depends on the child. Some put effort to figure out the meaning of new words, while many just skip over words they don't know.

In short I think the answer depends on a child. If your child is a reader (reads tons of books including classics), is strong in language arts and is learning the related second language, maybe you can avoid a vocab program. On the other hand, for a kid struggling with comprehension and uncomfortable with books because of big words, a good vocab program can be a great choice. I guess the key is to know your child. :)

 

We use MCT vocab and absolutely love it.

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From another thread on strategies to improve vocabulary:

 

We read a loud outstanding children's literature a total of 2 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. These are not all in 2 sittings at first.  We started them out at a about age 3 and worked our way up from there until they were in 2nd or 3rd grade and hit the hour long sittings. There are lots of threads at these boards for what to let your kids do while you read aloud to them, where to find lists of great children's literature and where to get book recordings. 

 

We introduced Latin and Greek Word Roots by 1st grade.  If you do 10 week until the kids know almost all of them you're off to an excellent start. There are some materials designed to just match the root to its translation and others to look up multiple words with a shared root.  We do a mix.

 

The neighbor kid once had our 6 inch thick English dictionary out with my older two (who were Jr. High age) randomly opening it and pointing to words and saying them out loud and my girls could tell him what every one of them meant. In college both have said new vocabulary is no trouble at all because they can almost always figure out what a new word means by breaking down the word roots and reading the context. In a few situations, they just looked it up.

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I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  I think implicit vocabulary is what the majority of time should be spent on; but my child with the largest vocabulary is not my best reader nor my best student.  He did, however, look up words regularly.  These were words he heard or read, and wondered about.  But I also did have him write down words and definitions more than any of the others.  I suspect the benefit was more the speed of and interest in looking up words rather than the actual meanings remembered, but I could be wrong.  Also when I was reading aloud he would man the dictionary and look things up(he initiated this, but we have continue this after he went to college).  I don't think he stopped to look words up when he was reading on his own, but he may have done that some.  

 

 

We also did some Latin work, but I used Henle which is lower in vocabulary. It did give him/me enough knowledge of the language to get more out of the etymology of words.  

 

 

I think, moving forward, that I still don’t plan to add any vocabulary programs (every attempt I have made at this in the past hasn’t seemed valuable), but I will have them look words up regularly and maybe write definitions down.  These would be words that we can look at in a context.  The process of deciding which of the meanings in a dictionary the author meant is not always as straightforward as I thought it would be.  Thinking through that is a valuable exercise. 

 

 

The other thing that I will continue to do (this is fairly new in my routine) is to have my children read aloud to me.  The reading aloud is not so new, but doing it regularly and beyond the early learning stage is new.  As they read I write down words that they mispronounce or don’t know the meaning of.  When they are finished reading we look those words up online(faster).  I may also tell them a rough definition as they are reading.  So while they are gaining much/most of their vocabulary from reading, we are doing a little more than just that.  I also encourage the to mentally or physically keep track of words that they don’t understand in their silent reading.  They can ask me about them later or look them up themselves.

 

 

 

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Yes. I think vocabulary programs are completely unnecessary.

Reading quality literature from many periods and genres and listening to high quality spoken language with a sophisticated vocabulary are far superior for building and retaining an extensive active vocabulary.

 

Which is why, for many kids (if not most), vocabulary programs are completely necessary.

 

:laugh:

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We do not do a vocabulary program for kids. We read a whole lot, listen to audiobooks and we use dictionaries liberally. Everyone in the family keeps a wordbook. A word that they don't know they write it down, write down their guess and then look it up and write the definition. Sometimes we look up roots, prefixes and suffixes and do a few worksheets from the internet or 'take it to the board'.

 

It is a little extra work but it isn't joyless, perhaps because it is a habit that the boys have grown up with from the time that they were toddlers, I actively read vocabulary books and constantly look words up because I have a pretty poor vocabulary (by my own estimation, anyway. I rarely see anyone else look up words.) I also actively try and use "big words" and by doing so, the boys are used to hearing ME say things: "That doesn't sound...uhm, whats that other word...I wanted to use a better word for 'doable'...it won't be very...uhm...feasible. Yeah, feasible! Sorry, boys, I don't think going to get ice cream after the library and swimming will be feasible this weekend."

 

Usually while I'm hmm and hawing, they will be shouting out suggestions to fill the blank. Sometimes I use the wrong word and they say; "No, Gil, that doesn't make any sense...you mean "better word choice than I'd come up with", right?

ETA: Oh and we have started using the internet to look up words. I just type: "Define _______" in the google toolbar and you can see the definition, synonyms and hear the word pronounced. I sound like less of an idiot thanks to the ability to hear the words.

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  • 1 month later...

Yes, I think you can overdo it. We found vcab redundant alongside our Latin studies and high quality literature, and inefficient compared to what they were getting in those other subjects. Halfway through our first year of Latin we dropped all separate vocab and haven't looked back since.

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Whatever you use for vocabulary building, you will get best results by talking through it. You can read aloud or use audio books, but you need to stop every time you get to a word or expression that the kids may not know. Explain the definition and give examples of how it is used in a sentence. Then reread the part of the book or rewind your audio so the kids can hear it in the context of your story.

 

You can do the same thing with a vocabulary workbook. I use sadlier Oxford vocabulary workshop which is decent. If you orally discuss the words, definitions, and example sentences each day, you will get much better results than just handing your kids a workbook to do by themselves.

 

Whether or not your kids learn new words in their own silent reading is variable and depends on the child--whether he will bother to try to find out the meaning or just skip the new words.

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 You can read aloud or use audio books, but you need to stop every time you get to a word or expression that the kids may not know. Explain the definition and give examples of how it is used in a sentence. Then reread the part of the book or rewind your audio so the kids can hear it in the context of your story.

 

I disagree that you "need" to do that. Children are programmed to acquire language simply by repeated exposure. Babies learn to talk when they hear their parents use words - and eventually they figure out what the words mean.

The same mechanism is at work in advanced foreign language acquisition  - at a certain point, the intermediate learner will read, converse, and watch movies without consulting a dictionary for each unknown word (which would be highly impractical and kill the fun).

 

You can certainly stop every time an unknown word occurs, but I would expect this to make listening into a chore and not fun.

Kids will pick up the meaning of words. Of course listening to Lord of the Rings at age 5, my kids did not understand every word - but they surely do now as teens. Without stopping for each word and giving explanations.

 

 

 

Whether or not your kids learn new words in their own silent reading is variable and depends on the child--whether he will bother to try to find out the meaning or just skip the new words.

 

And when the word has occurred for the 10th time in  different sentences, the kid will finally have understood the meaning. (Works fine for us adults increasing vocabulary in our non native English)

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I only found out recently that both my boys look up words on their Kindles while reading.  I did not even know the feature existed. 

 

We don't use a vocab program here because this appears to be enough.

 

Ruth in NZ

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It depends. Reading quality lit can be a great way to enhance vocabulary, but only if the reader takes the time to address any unknown words encountered, either by pausing to consider the context or (heaven forbid!) looking it up in a dictionary. In the case of your DD, it sounds like she is doing neither, which means she isn't learning vocabulary and isn't fully understanding what she is reading.

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