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How to improve your child’s vocabulary

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

4 Steps to improving your child’s vocabulary for the 11 Plus (11+) exam

Improving your child’s vocabulary is essential for passing the 11+ exams but it can be a daunting task imagining how you are going to help them cram what may at times feel like a whole dictionary of words into their head. Fortunately, we have compiled an easy step-by-step process to help you along which can be broken down into four steps: Speak, Entertain, Read, and Write.

Step 1: Speak

Conversation is the best way to develop a child’s vocabulary; it is how we all learn to speak, by listening to those around us. Try to implement their vocabulary lists into your everyday speech. Repetition is a great way to store new words in our long-term memory so the more they hear you repeating a new word, the more comfortable they will feel using it.

However, do make sure it is a two-way street; no one likes being talked at, we all want to be talked with. Asking your child a question provides them with the opportunity to try out the new words they have learnt. Importantly, avoid oversimplifying your vocabulary; this way your child can get exposure to challenging words in a safe environment where they feel comfortable asking you questions.

Step 2: Entertain

Go through their vocabulary list word-by-word and have them draw or act out each one. If they are struggling with a particular word, find a picture that represents it so they have a visual cue and place that picture somewhere where they will see it on a daily basis so it acts as a consistent reminder.

Alternatively, you could also make it a game. When you travel together, for instance, on a car ride or shopping trip, look for words together; make the world your I-Spy map!

You can also use word-based board games like Scrabble, Bananagrams, or Boggle as tools to make vocabulary learning fun. Finding new words together shows you (an adult!) are still learning new words which helps remove the embarrassment that can follow not understanding something.

Step 3: Read

Read aloud to your child and encourage them to read to you as well as independently. Books you choose can open them up to more difficult vocabulary and books they choose can grow their confidence in reading. Take them to a library to show them the benefit of understanding more words; being able to enjoy books more.

Moreover, books are not the limit; try out magazines like Aquila or Anorak which are aimed at young readers or give them small reading tasks. These small tasks could be as simple as having them read through the recipe when you are next preparing dinner.

Step 4: Write

Finally, when you are explaining a new word, give it context; put it into a sentence so they understand how it can be used and that way they can better gauge its meaning. To check they understand the word, ask them to put the same word into their own sentence.

You could even go a step beyond and ask them to write a story which includes that word. Story-telling in general can help improve their vocabulary by getting them to put their words into context.

How to prepare your child for the 11 Plus (11+) exam

The best way to start preparing for the 11+ exams is to get some relevant study materials and use practice papers to familiarise your child with the exam content and format. 

On our website, you can purchase practice papers specifically tailored for the 11+ exam, including individual maths, English, verbal and non-verbal reasoning packs, as well as a discounted complete bundle with all of our 11+ practice papers. These are available in both physical and downloadable formats.

Specifically for vocabulary practice we recommend the following:

Spelling & Vocabulary: https://examberrypapers.co.uk/spelling-and-vocabulary/

English: https://examberrypapers.co.uk/papers/11-plus/english/

Verbal: https://examberrypapers.co.uk/papers/11-plus/verbal-reasoning/

Reading Books: https://examberrypapers.co.uk/reading-books/

11+ Vocabulary List: https://examberrypapers.co.uk/blog/11-plus-11-vocabulary-list/

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