Four Tips for Building Your Vocabulary

Talking with various students and parents about ways they can develop their vocabulary, we often find people are unaware of some simple tips that will help them build their vocabulary faster. So we thought we’d take a moment to share with you these tips that have served others so well:

Tip 1: When you can’t confidently guess the meaning of a word, it’s important that you look up the word in a dictionary in order to have a full comprehension. Most smart phones, and digital books like Amazon Kindle, will let you easily look up a word’s definition in the built-in dictionary or a dictionary app.

Tip 2: Some words have multiple meanings. To fully master them, you have to understand the different contexts in which a word can be used, along with its associated meanings. The best way to do this is to read! The more you read, the more likely you are to encounter words in different or unfamiliar contexts. When that happens, be sure to follow Tip 1. Do not assume you “kind of” know the meaning of a word you are familiar with when you see it in an unfamiliar context. Often, the meaning can be quite different.

Tip 3: To really remember a word’s meaning, you have to read and understand the definition multiple times. If you just read the definition once, you will likely forget it over time. Instead, if you read the definition on multiple separate occasions, each repetition more firmly embeds the meaning in your memory.

Tip 4: As a memory aid, it also helps to create an image in your mind that you can associate with the definition. The more amusing, or exaggerated the image, the more likely you are to remember it. The brain then “hooks” the image into the definition, and since the image is memorable, the definition becomes memorable – when you remember the image you remember the definition. The more images or sounds you can hook into a definition, the easier it will be to recall the definition. The image or sounds you use to help you recall the definition are called mnemonics.

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