Close this search box.
Close this search box.

9 Proven Ways to Improve Students’ Vocabulary at Home

In 2013, researchers James Milton and Jeanine Treffers-Daller examined the relationship between vocabulary size and academic success with native English speakers. What they discovered turned out to be crucial –  vocabulary size positively correlated with students’ academic success.

The correlation between vocabulary and educational success becomes especially significant  in the context of reading comprehension, where vocabulary knowledge plays a pivotal role. As this study points out, It’s vital for learners to read various texts to familiarise themselves with different written structures, as these differ from spoken language. 

Effective reading comprehension is supported by learning strategies that help in acquiring, retaining, and utilising a robust vocabulary. To make this easier, here are 9 proven ways to boost students’ vocabularies for  NSW Selective schools test, OC test and private schools scholarships:

1) Explicit Vocabulary Instruction

This involves directly teaching new words with clear definitions, examples, and nonexamples. For instance, if teaching the word “habitat,” you would provide a definition (e.g., “the natural home of an animal, plant, or other organism”), show pictures or give examples of different habitats (like a forest for bears, a pond for ducks), and discuss nonexamples (like a desert for a fish).

2) Practice Across Subjects

 Use new words in various contexts and subjects. If the word is “accumulate,” you could discuss it in maths (accumulating numbers), in science (how snow accumulates), and in social studies (how wealth accumulates in societies). This repetition in different contexts helps deepen understanding.

3)  Careful Word Selection

Focus on words that are essential for understanding content, used frequently, and new to students. For example, in a science lesson about ecosystems, essential words might include “biodiversity,” “ecosystem,” and “species.” These words are central to the topic, commonly used in science, and possibly new to the students.

4) Essential Words Routine

Use a graphic organiser to introduce important words. For “evaporation,” you might draw a diagram showing water turning into vapour, provide a definition, and give examples like water evaporating from a puddle.

5) Frayer Model

This is a graphical organiser where a student defines a word, lists its characteristics, examples, and nonexamples. For “democracy,” a student might write “a system of government by the whole population” as a definition, list characteristics like “voting,” “freedom of speech,” and give examples (United States, Canada).

6) Semantic Mapping

 This visual tool connects a central word to related words or concepts. For “water,” a semantic map might include branches to “states of water” (solid, liquid, gas), “uses of water” (drinking, cleaning), and “bodies of water” (ocean, river).

7) Acting It Out & “Tell Me Once, Tell Me Twice”

 Use physical activity to explain a word. For “frolic,” you could playfully run around, imitating happy animals. Also, Regularly use new words in conversations to reinforce their meanings.

8) Loci method

This is a mnemonic technique used for memory enhancement. It involves associating the items to be remembered with specific physical locations or a path through a familiar place. To use this method for vocabulary learning: Ask your child to choose a familiar place, like your home.
Then ask them to take a mental walk through this place.
Associate each new vocabulary word with a specific location in that place. For example, if they’re learning the word “austere” (meaning: very simple; without decoration),they might visualise a very plain and simple room in your house.  The more vivid and unique the association, the better it will stick in their memory. This method helps in creating a mental map where each location triggers the recall of the word associated with it.

9) Interactive Reading


The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve shows us that without repeated exposure to new words, our memory retention plummets. By making small, consistent efforts to practise new words daily, we can counteract this natural tendency to forget. Over time, these daily practices compound, leading to significant improvements in language proficiency.

The best way to do this is by an expert-vetted strategy called ‘Interactive Reading’:

i) While reading, Listing new words is effective because it actively engages the learner in recognizing and acknowledging unfamiliar vocabulary. This proactive approach forms the foundation for vocabulary expansion. When a learner writes down a new word, it reinforces their memory and awareness of that word, creating a tangible reference they can return to for revision and reinforcement.

ii) Exploring synonyms enhances vocabulary learning by providing a deeper understanding of the nuances and subtleties of language. When learners research synonyms, they not only expand their vocabulary but also develop a finer appreciation for word meanings and usage. 

For example, learning that “elated,” “joyful,” and “ecstatic” are synonyms for “happy” not only increases the number of words at one’s disposal but also enhances understanding of the different intensities and contexts in which these words can be used.

iii) Contextualising new words by using them in meaningful sentences is a powerful strategy for cementing their understanding and retention. This practice enables learners to see how words function in real-life communication, thereby reinforcing their memory and application. For instance, by contextualising “melancholy” in a sentence, such as “The rainy weather often brought a sense of melancholy to the seaside village,” you’re not only reinforcing its meaning but also seeing how it functions in a complete thought, aiding in deeper memory retention and practical application. 

Need help navigating the NSW Selective Test 2024 and NSW Selective Test 2025? Reach out here:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 256 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here