A wide vocabulary is often the key to success in the eleven plus. A broad vocabulary can improve children’s comprehension as well as helping with synonym and antonym questions in verbal reasoning papers.
Vocabulary is tested in some shape or form in all 11+ exams. For Bromley students, it is particularly important in the Bexley and the Newstead exams. If you’re aiming for your child to be in the Top 180 students for Bexley, you will most certainly need to targeted practice on this area.
To improve your child’s vocabulary, it is important to use a little and often approach. More than 30 minutes or so would be overkill and will be counter-productive. Try to set aside just 10 to 15 minutes every one or two days to go over new words and you’ll be amazed at the difference you see in your child.
How to Improve Your Child's Vocabulary at Home
Tip 1 - Using Advanced Vocabulary at Home
Many parents simplify their vocabulary when speaking to their child, but this is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing in order to help your child to progress. By exposing your child to new words on a regular basis, you are giving them an opportunity to hear words in context, which is essential for helping them to store these words in their long-term memories.
If you’re having trouble explaining definitions, you may want to ask your child to look the word up in the dictionary. Our pupils enjoy using Siri (the virtual assistant on iPhones) occasionally to ask for definitions. They get a thrill from doing this, which makes learning vocabulary less of a chore. If you use this option at home, do make sure your child understands the definitions that Siri provides as it may use more language that they don’t understand.
For parents that aren’t confident in their own vocabulary, or those that speak English as a second language, you may want to look at Tip 4 - listening to audiobooks - for a suitable alternative to teaching vocabulary yourself.
Tip 2 - Create Flashcards
Flashcards can be used to test your child as well as providing a way of keeping track of the words your child has learnt.
Flashcards are made by writing the word on one side and its definition on the other. Your child should write these out themselves as this is another way of helping them to remember the spellings and meanings of the words. They may use a variety of colours and decorate the cards if they wish.
Try to test your child on the flashcards several times a week. This need only take 10 minutes or so but it is important to continue to expose your child to these words regularly in order for them to become engrained in your child’s mind.
Some families turn flashcards into a family game where children compete to remember the definitions. If you’re preparing an older child for the 11+, this has the added benefit of giving your younger child a chance to start learning too.
Remember to put your flashcards in a place that is convenient for you - you can put them on the fridge and practise before dinner, or perhaps place them in your car glove pocket and practise on the way to school.
Tip 3 - Review the Stretching Vocabulary book
Kin pupils will have Stretching Vocabulary books to prepare them for the 11+. These books are designed to repeat the same words in a variety of exercises in order to increase a child’s exposure to the words.
Once your child has finished the book, try to review the exercises regularly and test your child on the words in the book. If they’ve forgotten some of these words, they can either be added to the flashcards you make or you can highlight the words to remind you to test your child again in future.
Tip 4 - Listen to Audiobooks
Audiobooks are particularly useful for children that aren’t keen on reading. Audiobooks give you the opportunity to expose your child to books from different genres with minimal effort on their side. Children may like to listen to audiobooks before going to sleep or on longer car journeys.
Tip 5 - Review synonyms and antonyms in verbal reasoning books
Whilst some parents go over the answers to synonym and antonym questions in verbal reasoning books, many often forget to review the other words in that same question. If your child has answered a question incorrectly, it’s likely because they didn’t know the meanings of several of the words in that question.
Once a month or so, try to go through your child’s verbal reasoning book in order to make a list of the words they may have struggled with. These words can then be added to the list of flashcards you plan on making.
If you’ve been reviewing the words in the verbal reasoning books on a regular basis, return to the book after a few months to see if your child can now answer those questions correctly on their own.
Remember: if there’s any way of doing these activities as a family and making a game out of them, that’s the best way to work. Learning vocabulary can become tedious when children are simply reading words and writing out the definitions. If you’re learning new words at the same time as your child then tell them; they’ll be happy to hear that they’re not the only one that’s learning.
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We’ve put together a list of the words that students struggle with the most when working with us in class. These words are featured frequently in 11+ English and verbal reasoning questions. Learning these will help your child to better understand the texts they read.
A good children’s dictionary is essential when your child is learning vocabulary. A children’s dictionary will have definitions written in a way that your child can understand. Try the Oxford Primary Dictionary if you haven’t got a dictionary already.
Note: these audiobooks may not be read with the same professionalism as the books on audible.co.uk. You may need to look around on Gutenberg for audiobooks that are engaging enough to keep your child interested.
Kin Learning provide 11+ tuition and summer schools in Bromley and Sidcup. Our past students have gained places at prestigious grammar schools such as Newstead Wood, St. Olave's, Dartford Grammar, Tonbridge Grammar and Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar.