Using BIG words with Preschoolers - DuPage Children's Museum

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Using BIG words with Preschoolers

May 19, 2016

Sagacious, sophisticated, and sedulous may not seem like words that one would use in everyday conversation with a preschooler, however, research indicates that parents and caregivers who talk with children using unusual words provide exposure to new words and new concepts that can be built upon for years to come! Molly F. Collins, EdD, co-author of So Much More Than the ABCs, shares that preschoolers who hear rich explanations of sophisticated words learn significantly more words than children who do not.

The benefits of conversations using sophisticated vocabulary are noted in a recent publication of the Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In the article “The Importance of Discussing 50-Cent Words with Preschoolers,” Collins (2012) states that discussing sophisticated words:

  • Exposes children to new words and new concepts
  • Clarifies differences in meaning between new words and known concepts
  • Deepens meaning of partially known words
  • Repairs initial misunderstandings of new words
  • Primes children to value words and increase their knowledge about word meaning

In addition, Collins (2005) offers information on intentionally talking about words and what they mean:

  • Don’t be afraid to introduce children to interesting “big” words related to literacy, math, science, past and future events.
  • Point to illustrations or objects to help children understand.
  • Provide brief definitions.
  • Use synonyms, “It’s like a…”
  • Use gestures.
  • Use the word in different sentences at different times and in different contexts.

Look for more on promoting oral language development next week.

References:
Collins, M.F. (2012). Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “The Importance of Discussing 50-Cent Words with Preschoolers.”
Collins, M.F. (2005). Reading Research Quarterly, “ESL Preschoolers’ English Vocabulary Acquisition from Storybook Reading.”