What is Vocabulary?

The term vocabulary, in its most basic sense, refers to a list of words and their definitions. Traditionally, such a list would be presented in alphabetical order and may be directly related to a unit of study (such as a list of words related to plant growth for a unit on botany). In education, however, the vocabulary definition involves a much richer field of study. Students of all ages, beginning with preschool and kindergarten, benefit from developing a broad, diverse understanding of the English language. Building vocabulary involves much more than simply memorizing vocab words and definitions. Skillful vocabulary activities and lessons should engage students and build understanding. Teachers can keep in mind the following principles:

  • Each word can have a variety of meanings or shades of meaning.
  • Words can be connected to other words and understood in relation to other words. Starting with known vocabulary, such as ''truck,'' can lead to learning more advanced vocabulary (excavator, diesel, itinerary).
  • Word parts can give clues to meaning. For example, ''endear'' (to cause to be liked) is related to the root word ''dear.''
  • Vocab words should be put into meaningful context and practiced. Students should use words expressively, in both writing and speech, as well as receptively, looking for vocabulary words in their environment.
  • Students can be involved in choosing their own vocabulary words to learn and practice, increasing their motivation.

For English language learners (ELLs), vocabulary is a key part of the education process. English language learners may need to learn some of the basic communication vocabulary that native speakers take for granted. Teachers of ELLs often identify four domains of language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Some educators add a fifth domain, which is interaction. In all of these domains, students must develop a functional vocabulary to experience growth and increase their proficiency. Therefore, vocabulary learning is an integral part of ELL programs for learners of all ages.

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Vocabulary Topics

Educational Vocabulary Resources

For both teachers and students, the process of building a stronger vocabulary consists of more than simply learning a list of vocab words. Educators and students need resources to help them delve deeper into the meaning, usage, and composition of words and explore the interconnectivity of the English language. Both native speakers and English language learners can benefit from the variety of vocabulary-related resources available on Study.com. A comprehensive English course and several Skills Practice modules allow students to brush up on their grammar, writing, reading, and vocabulary skills. Teacher resources designed for teachers of English language learners focus on developing language skills in the areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Each resource will help students enhance their vocabulary, increasing communication skills that are useful for both school and the workplace.

Courses for Vocabulary

A well-developed vocabulary is a benefit for high school and college students. At the college level, professors in most areas of the study expect students to produce clear, intelligent writing related to their discipline. Likewise, in the workplace, employees are often required to write reports or other forms of paperwork, and employers expect excellence in this area. Study.com offers a comprehensive English course to help students improve their grammar and writing skills for students interested in building vocabulary. Vocabulary activities teach semantics, word roots and affixes, and phonemes, as well as synonyms, antonyms, and idioms. Vocabulary words from each segment of this course will enhance student vocabulary.

Vocabulary Test Prep for Teachers and Students

Vocabulary Test Prep

Prospective California teachers can use Study.com's RICA Exam Test Prep to prepare for their licensure test. This guide reviews important topics in reading instruction, including phonological awareness, letter recognition, sight words, phonics, vocabulary development, and literacy comprehension. These user-friendly lessons and practice quizzes will help test-takers be ready to succeed on the RICA test and put them one step closer to their professional goals.

For teachers and parents

Vocabulary Lesson Plans for Teachers

Teachers of English language learners can access various resources on Study.com, including lesson plans designed to target vocabulary learning. From a wide variety of vocabulary flashcards to games for all ages, available resources address all four domains of language learning: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. General education teachers can find resources to supplement their classroom units, and ELL teachers can also find appropriate plans for classes that target language learning.

Lesson plans
  • Activities for Teaching English Language Learners

    Teacher resources target vocabulary and language development for English language learners of all ages. Games, flashcards, questions, activities, and lesson plans cover reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.

Skills and Practice in Vocabulary

Vocabulary is often seen as an elementary topic involving learning lists of words and their meanings. Sometimes vocabulary lists are attached to science or social studies units to help students develop relevant subject-matter word knowledge. In fact, studying vocabulary is important for students of all ages. The ability to communicate effectively relies on an individual being able to comprehend and utilize a wide variety of specific, relevant words, as well as to understand shades of meaning and choose words appropriately. Vocabulary development benefits academic writing, public speaking, employment, and relationship building.

In high school, English language arts (ELA) courses are designed to teach students to be active readers and expert writers, and communicators. Study.com features English Language Arts Skills Practice modules at the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth-grade levels. Using these modules, teachers have the opportunity to select specific skills and create assignments that allow students to practice in target areas of ELA. Students can practice in four areas of ELA: reading, grammar, writing, and vocabulary.

Available reading skills include analyzing literature, analyzing informational text, analyzing poetry, and literary devices. Each of these broad topics can be broken down into specific practice items, such as word choice, themes, or understatement. Grammar topics include a comprehensive review of English grammar, which is particularly relevant to the language domain of writing. Grammar topics include phrases and clauses; sentence structure; capitalization and spelling; punctuation; grammar conventions; and parts of speech. The writing portion of the skills modules focuses on editing and revision, which is vital to effective written communication. Vocabulary skills include dictionary and thesaurus usage; word choice; determining word meaning; affixes; and word roots. Each of these vocabulary skills has lifelong relevance in enabling students to broaden their vocabulary independently.

Classroom teachers and teachers of ELL students can benefit from access to these practice resources, which can be used to create reviews, quizzes, or homework assignments. In addition, students can identify their own areas of weakness and access these Skills Practice modules to review before a major exam. Honing skills in reading, literary analysis, writing, grammar, and vocabulary building will teach students to be stronger readers and writers, preparing them for both higher education and the workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a vocabulary example?

    A study of the vocabulary word ''refinement'' would reveal that the word has at least two possible meanings:

    • a process of being refined (such as removing impurities or making small changes)
    • elegant behavior

    Further study would also note the word's relation to the words ''fine'' and ''refined'' and give different ways to use the word in a sentence. Students could also look for the word ''refinement'' in a written text.

  • What does vocabulary mean?

    Vocabulary is a word and its definition. The study of vocabulary includes developing an understanding of the shades of meaning that accompany a word, word roots and affixes, word usage, and related words.