Vocabulary- Is it simply knowing many words or much more?
Updated: Mar 16
What helps a child to have a good vocabulary? Reading a lot you say? That's true. Reading extensively definitely helps in adding new words to one's knowledge. But what does one do when the same word can have different meanings depending on the context? What are the chances of a child stumbling upon different meanings of the same word across say a set of 5-6 books? Very slim chance. If that's the case, what's a fun and efficient way to learn different applications of the same word?
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Take for instance the word "lead". Depending on how you choose to read it first, it can be a pencil lead or an action word in a context where you are talking about a person leading a team perhaps. Or if you like visual imagery, a road or a path can lead you somewhere. Take a pause and think about it. You may make further connections such as lead being a metal, a chemical even leading to the connection with the terms "lead poisoning." If you are now caught up in science, take a step back. What about taking a dog on a lead?
One word and so many applications- Can reading alone help a child register these various applications?
Sure it is possible. As they read, some of them may be able to understand the various applications of the same word but ofcourse this rarely happens in one book. The realisation that a word can have multiple applications happens across a variety of texts. But who really compiles all these applications and make a conscious note?
What if there is a way to do that? Would exploring words become more fun and interesting instead of listing meanings for words and making sentences for them as a means to prepare for an exam?
This was a challenge that we took up at the Young Readers' Club. We tried to build a word grid to discover even the less obvious connections the word could have. For instance, the word 'refuse' led to connections being made with rhyming words such as 'defuse'. Those who were new to the word 'defuse' wanted to know the meaning. The reader who suggested it was more than happy to explain with a suitable example. After hearing the explanation, the reader said the word reminds him of something totally not connected but a word that he had encountered recently. The word was "Rufus" and he explained how the similarity in sounds helped him make the connection. He went on to explain that it is software application by Microsoft. This endeavour led to several connections being made by every young reader to what they had read, seen or heard. In the process, learning seemed a lot more comprehensive. Everyone's voice mattered. New perspectives opened up.
This endeavour led to several connections being made by every young reader to what they had read, seen or heard. In the process, learning seemed a lot more comprehensive. Everyone's voice mattered. New perspectives opened up.
What if we had a unique word for every application instead of having the same set of words? Wouldn't that make life a lot easier?
"Sometimes it doesn't make sense, using the same for different applications. Why not have a unique word for every application?" asked one of the readers. A few others were quick to retort, "Oh no, that would mean learning more new words. Phew! No thank you!"
Who knows as languages slowly evolved and people added new words to their native languages, words might have got commonly used in all sorts of contexts for want of words and got set for eternity to mean something quite different from what was originally intended. We may not realise it but languages are constantly evolving. Words used in the 19th century may not be in vogue as times have changed. New words have got added to the dictionary to suit the 21st century. It would be interesting to see how the two schools of thought- one in favour of unique words and the other in favour of same word for multiple applications fare over one another by the time the world moves to the 22nd century.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 12-14 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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