Vocabulary for Pre and Beginning Readers

Basic vocabulary is necessary for a child as they begin to learn to read.

Children learn the meanings of most words indirectly, through their everyday experiences.

While most vocabulary is learnt indirectly, direct vocabulary learning in addition to indirect vocabulary learning is useful. About 300 more words can be learnt each year as a result of direct vocabulary instruction, (Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986).

Basic vocabulary for beginning readers include: colours; prepositions; common objects and locations; pronouns; parts of everyday objects; adjectives; occupations; quantity words; materials; shapes; and patterns.


Prepositions: Basic Vocabulary

Here is a simple activity for assessing and teaching prepositions.



This activity can be done with two cups and any other single item you have on hand, e.g. a pencil. Following my sons’ lead and interest in superheroes, (and embracing the reality that we have many of them littered throughout our home), we used two cups and a Batman toy.

Placing Batman in various positions relative to the cup/s, I simply asked, “Where is Batman?”

Where there were gaps in their vocabulary, I taught the prepositions through modelling.


Teaching Vocabulary through Modelling

Vocabulary can be taught orally through modelling, particularly when a child is at the pre-reading or early stages of learning to read.

In teaching vocabulary through modelling, there are three steps:


  1. Model positive and negative examples of the new concept.
  2. Test the child on their understanding using examples of the new word.
  3. Integrate by presenting different examples of the new word, along with examples of other previously taught words.

We kept the lesson short and punchy. Repetition is key to building vocabulary, so we’ll have to visit this activity often; (good thing that it involves Batman).

Lessons Learnt Journal

More Activities for Preschoolers

Three to Five: Playful Preschool is stuffed to the brim with tried, tested and loved playful learning ideas for preschoolers. There are 25+ ideas for preschoolers, ten printable resources and additional links to over 50 more activities. A great resource for parents. Download your copy here.

Games for Kids: Three to Five Playful Preschool eBook via Lessons Learnt Journal


N&M: 4 years, 4 months
October 2012

Lessons Learnt Journal
Some more important points to consider when building up a child’s vocabulary.

About the author

Pauline Pauline & Lessons Learnt Journal is all about life with kids. Pauline is an Aussie mum and teacher who shares her love for play, math games, writing and reading activities. She believes that #playmatters, values curiosity & wonder, wisdom, obedience and respect. She also needs naps. When not blogging, she may be found virtually hoarding on Pinterest, trying to decide which Instagram filter to apply, or compulsively refreshing her Facebook feed.

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