Building Your Child’s Vocabulary: by Lorian Steider Brady

I met Lorian Steider Brady at the NJSCBWI Conference back in June, where we shared a lunch table and had an interesting conversation about her work with ESL children.  Teaching vocabulary to any student can be a challenge.  Trying to build the vocabulary of a student whose primary language in NOT English can be downright daunting.  But Lorain’s passion for the task won me over.  Here she shares some techniques that have worked for developing vocabulary.  I even learned a new word ( I highlighted it in BOLD GREEN at the end of the post).  Here’s Lorian:

I am officially in awe of brains.
Especially children’s brains.
Especially, especially the brains of children learning English.
English Learners’ brains work double time, all the time. They are processing the overt and covert elements of English to learn the language of social interactions and the language of academic interactions. And they do it simultaneously!

Think about the variation in vocabulary necessary for each of the following: a thank you to grandma, an essay for class, talking to your best friend… you get the idea. Register and vocabulary matter.
All learners, not just English Learners, benefit from an increased vocabulary. The more words you know, the more likely you are to choose the best one when it really counts.
The good news is that kids are wired to learn words. Not surprisingly, they do this best through meaningful interactions with real people. In a Flashcards vs. Conversation throw down, my money is on Conversation every time. In education, we call this oral language development and it’s the foundation on which reading and writing are built.

There are lots of engaging ways to expose children to new words at home, at school, in the car, anywhere you go!

• Reading Aloud
Still one of the very best ways to expose children to vocabulary words while modeling the rhythm of language and enjoying a tale together.

• Wordless books
These have pictures, but readers tell the story. You’ll find some at your local library.

• Mind Reader Game
Think of a secret word and give your family clues to help them to guess it.

• Hide and Seek
In this car game one person imagines themselves hiding somewhere in their home or another familiar place. The rest of the people in the car try to find the hider by asking only YES/NO questions.

Whether English is your first language, or just your latest, you’ll learn faster and remember better if you have fun while doing it. After all, grins are a universal language.

For more information about vocabulary and oral language development you can visit:       HeadNShoulders_Lorian_Steider Brady

An educator of 21 years, Lorian Steider Brady currently teaches young English Learners in Arizona where she is coming to terms with the need to estivate and slowly learn to play the banjo. You can reach her at