Top 5 Reasons Why Vocabulary Matters

There has been a big push the last 10-15 years to improve a student's vocabulary skills, but do you know why? Here are the top 5 reasons why vocabulary is so important:

1 It Improves Reading Comprehension. Research has shown that kids need to understand 98% of the words they read to understand what they are reading. Improving vocabulary skills will improve their understanding of novels and textbooks.

2 It's Important to Language Development.  Children who develop a rich vocabulary tend to be deeper thinkers, express themselves better and read more. Improving language and literacy skills early in life will help them be more successful academically and communicatively.

3 Communicating Ideas. Successful communication or "saying what you mean" is dependent upon a good vocabulary base. Using the right words when talking, makes you a more effective communicator.

4 Expressing Yourself in Writing. Having a good vocabulary to draw from can help you write more effectively. Students need to use a more formal tone when writing - not conversational language - and to do that, they need a richer vocabulary to tap into those words we don't use when we speak.

5 Occupational Success. Researcher Johnson O'Connor found that "a person's vocabulary level is the best single predictor of occupational success."* Success in the business place depends on your communication skills.

We've developed visual vocabulary tools to improve students' vocabulary skills K-12. Our iPad apps (InferCabulary and WordQuations) are on the APP Store and InferCabulary Pro will be ready for sale at ASHA 2016 in Philly. Take a minute to check them out.


Deena Seifert, M.S., CCC-SLP

Co-founder, Communication APPtitude LLC

Students Creating Definitions

How do you define a word so that others understand? Students are expected to know how to do this, but many struggle to create definitions. They've "miss" the lesson either figuratively or literally. When working on definitions with students, I lay out 3 post it notes like this - only I use pictures instead of words for younger students.

I ask the student to say something about the word using guidelines from the post it notes. For example define the word KITTEN.

A kitten is a kind of thing is it? (category) animal/pet/baby animal. 
What does it do? (function) purrs, drinks milk, meows
What does it look like? (attributes) four legs, whiskers, tail, baby cat, different colors of fur

Practicing with a variety of nouns, now the student has a "road map" for how to define a word.  Helping students define/describe words is the first step in improving oral expression and a stepping stone to other explanations. It also helps them craft definitions for words in a way they can understand and store the information for future use.