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Someone recently commented on DDs vocabulary and her use of certain larger words. It made me wonder, how do you test a child's vocabulary? Reading level is easy to test, but I can't seem to find anything similar that details expected vocabulary by age. What makes a vocabulary higher or lower for certain ages/grades? Are there tests that would determine a child's vocabulary?

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Most standardized tests include a vocabulary section, so that would be one measure.

 

I think vocabulary is a hard one to pin down. There are more than a million words in the English language. My daughter knows some impressive ones and then occasionally asks "what is ____?" and I look at her like she has three heads. The words aren't exactly leveled in the order that you learn them.

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I don't know how to test vocabulary, but increasing vocabulary is best done through reading of both fiction and non-fiction books because this teaches vocabulary in context. I give vocabulary instruction during spelling - root word and meanings of suffixes and prefixes as well as word origin, but my own children's vocabulary increases best when I read aloud to them from good quality books or non-fiction books, newspaper articles or even journal articles. I have always made a point of showing them google images of nouns that they might not know including animal species and plants, geographical terms and historical items that they may not have come into contact with. Very often as I am looking them up they will tell me where they have heard the word before and so relate it  to other familiar things. I was amazed to find that they knew what lapis lazuli was the other day when it came up in a book we were reading... if I hadn't bothered to try to show them a picture of it I would never have known it was already in their vocabulary though they had not been aware exactly what it could be used for.

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If you google "vocabulary by grade", then you should come across lists of words that people think kids should know in certain grades, or lists of words common in texts read by kids at that grade level, stuff like that.

 

If you want a test per se, like a PP said, most standardized tests have a vocab section. You could even order one of those tests and only administer the vocab section, and leave the rest blank, but I wouldn't be able to do that... if I were paying for an entire test, my kid would take the entire test, lol. The problem with using a test like the CAT6/Terranova, or probably the same with the ITBS, is that there aren't that many vocab questions, and they range from a little below grade level to a little above grade level. IIRC, my oldest got 20/20 right (he got all right... not sure if it was 20 questions) on the 3rd grade CAT, which gave him a grade equivalent of 12.9 (i.e. high school graduate). BUT, that just means that the median kid just before graduating high school still wouldn't get all questions right on the 3rd grade test... my son's vocabulary is above average, but isn't anywhere near 12th grade level. In other words, the test only really tells you how your kid is doing compared to other kids in the grade you're testing. Of course, if your kid aces the test at their grade level, you could then order the test a couple of grade levels up, but that would mean more $$.

 

And I agree vocab is wonky. I took the SAT a month after moving to the US. I took a practice test first, and while I did a kickass job on analogies, the one analogy question I remember missing on the practice test was something to do with an oar. I knew oars had something to do with boats, but I wasn't sure what. In the meantime, I blew of the "SAT words" out of the water. Obviously, ESL is different from regular vocab, but still... vocab is a little random.

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