4 Simple Strategies to Teach Vocabulary

Vocabulary is a topic you've probably encountered in your child's preschool, pediatrician's office, and on those language development Pinterest boards. It's such a hot topic because a solid, large vocabulary is important for academic and professional success.

You'll hear about how important vocabulary is through programs like the Thirty Million Words Initiative. This program promotes expanding your child's vocabulary by talking with, to, and around your child.

Talking to your child and giving them the opportunity to hear language is the typical way your child's vocabulary develops. In more academic words, a child's vocabulary grows as she is exposed to language while interacting with her environment.

Some circumstances can hinder or delay vocabulary development like whether a child is DHH (has hearing loss), has a language delay, or whose family isn't financially stable. Research revealed that at 3-years-olds whose family is receiving welfare has heard 30 million words less than a child from an affluent family. Situations like this call for intentional and more intensive ways to teach vocabulary.

If your child's in fourth grade, then you could still use these strategies but typically these are the strategies used primarily with the Littles.

  1. Narration in everyday routines.
  2. Auditory Bombardment
  3. New/Familiar/New
  4. Simple Songs


As you interact with your child during your daily routines, talk about what you're doing. Be like a sports caster who's giving a play-by-play. Narrate your life.

When I first started grad school and was learning how to use this strategy, I felt a little crazy and a lot of awkward. It was weird knowing that behind the one-way glass my supervisors were watching me talk to myself.

Despite being self-conscience, I kept on narrating and now it's something I unconsciously do when Baby Boy and I are eating breakfast.

While narrating and talking to your baby or toddler, use both short and simple and long and complex sentences. You want to give your kiddo the opportunity to hear lots of different sentence types, words, phrases, etc.

As your child gets older, use more complex language and longer sentences.

Narration could sound like this: "I'm really hungry. I need to eat some food. Hmm, what do I want to eat. I want some cereal. First I need a spoon. My spoon is in the drawer. I got a little spoon. Now I need a bowl...."

Say It Again with Auditory Bombardment

Use auditory bombardment when you you're talking with your child or using narration. Auditory bombardment is when you say a specific word over and over again. The goal is to say the target word tons of times so that the meaning of the word really clicks for your child.

An example of auditory bombardment with the target word of 'tree' could sound something like this:

"I see a tree! Do you see the tree? That tree is really big. There are lots of green leaves on the tree. We're walking under the tree. Look! Now the tree is above us."


You'll use synonyms to teach specific words with this strategy. You start by introducing the new word, comparing it to a familiar word, and then restating the new word.

It sounds a little like this:

"This is Robin. It's a kind of bird. This Robin is flying."

"He looks angry. He's feeling very mad. I wonder why he's angry."

This is a really easy strategy to use when you're reading a storybook!

Vocabulary in Simple Songs

Incorporating vocabulary into simple, repetitive songs and pairing it with pictures is an effective strategy to teaching vocabulary.

(This was actually my friend's thesis project and I got to implement the intervention. It really does work and its's fun for the students!)

I do this all the time on the fly. Just keep a few simple tunes in your head and it's easy to put together simple rhymes with the vocabulary words.

Here's an example with target words of: seeds, rain, sun. Tune: "Farmer in the Dell"

The seed goes in the ground, the seed goes in the ground, hi-ho the dairy-o the seed goes in the ground.

The sun begins to shine, the sun begins to shine, hi-ho the dairy-o the sun begins to shine.

The rain begins to fall, the rain begins to fall, hi-ho the dairy-o the rain begins to fall.

Sun and rain to grow, sun and rain to grow, seeds need sun and rain to grow, grow, grow.

Vocabulary Strategies Summary

Get out a few of your child's favorite books and try using these strategies during your next story time. You could also try out one of me and Baby Boy's favorite books (Little Blue Boat is a fun book with words that would be easy to turn into a simple song!)

  1. Narration in everyday routines.
  2. Auditory Bombardment
  3. New/Familiar/New
  4. Simple Songs

Thanks for reading! <3

(P.S. This post contains affiliate links because momma's gotta bring home the bacon. I may receive a negligible kick-back for purchases. Thank you!)


Cheng H., & Fumham A. (2012). Childhood cognitive ability, education, and personality traits predict attainment in adult occupational prestige over 17 years. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 81, 218–226. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.07.005

Hart, B., & T.R. Risley. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young american children. Baltimore: Brookes.

Hart, B., & T.R. Risley. (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by age 3. American Educator 27 (1): 4–9.

Lund, E., & Douglas, W. M. (2016). Teaching vocabulary to preschool children with hearing loss. Exceptional Children, 83(1), 26-41.

Smith, Lauren. (2015). Music: A tool for expressive and receptive vocabulary for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. All Graduate Plan B and other Reports. 503. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/gradreports/503

Image Courtesy of Love image created by Teksomolika - Freepik.com

2 thoughts on “4 Simple Strategies to Teach Vocabulary

  1. Good day! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative
    in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a
    outstanding job!

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