Speech Pathology News: Vocabulary Development

Reading: a great way to develop vocabulary

We have mentioned in our newsletters that reading to your child is an important way to increase their vocabulary and expose them to a rich variety of new words.  If your child is old enough to read on their own, they may still be reading books that are quite simple as the aim might be to practice decoding the words and improve reading fluency. Therefore, they are likely not being exposed to the types of words that will improve their vocabulary. The website Book Share Time (https://booksharetime.com) was developed by a Perth Speech Pathologist with the aim of supporting children’s speech and language development. It helps parents, teachers, and Speech Pathologists to select children’s books that are useful for targeting certain goals.  Have a look at how you can use books that you already have at home!

Semantic organisation

Semantic organisation refers to the way we organise incoming information in order to make sense of it and later retrieve it for use in conversation. A child with a good semantic system is able to store lots of new words, refine their understanding of what words mean, and retrieve words with ease. A child with semantic difficulties finds it more challenging to store new words and therefore has a smaller vocabulary.

A child with semantic difficulties may:

  • Not understand the meaning of words and have a small vocabulary of known words.
  • Have difficulty naming items or use general and non-specific words e.g. ‘thing’, ‘over there’.
  • Give limited or vague descriptions that are difficult to follow.

Examples of activities to improve semantic organisation and vocabulary:

  • Word associations—talk about things that go together and the reasons they go together e.g. knife/fork, sock/shoe, hand/glove, flower/vase.
  • Labelling—encourage your child to label items and actions during everyday activities e.g. shopping for groceries, doing the washing.
  • Discuss similarities and differences between items.
  • Word classification games— “see how many types of fruit you can think of in one minute.” Other categories that might be fun include tools, toys, clothes, animals, sports.
  • For older children, discuss words that have multiple meanings e.g. blue/blew, wave/wave.
Questions to ask Language to model
Can you find one that’s different? This one is different because …..
Which ones are the same? These are the same because …..
How are these different? The X is ….. and the Y is …..
How do you know these were the same / similar? They both have / are …..


The FLDC Speech Pathology Team