PDST - Primary Language Curriculum e-Bulletin 7 - Vocabulary (Part 1)

In this e-bulletin, we have outlined some resources and activities which may be used to enrich language learning experiences. This is the first of a two part e-bulletin focusing on vocabulary development agus ar stór focal a fhorbairt across the three strands Oral Language/ Teanga ó Bhéal, Reading/ Léitheoireacht and Writing/ Scríbhneoireacht. There is scope for these activities and resources to be used when addressing other learning outcomes also. We have highlighted these on some of the task cards. It is important to note that vocabulary development is not limited to the vocabulary specific learning outcomes of any given strand. Playful language learning promotes vocabulary development connecting “words” to the child’s life experiences. Cuireann súgradh go mór le litearthacht sa mhéid is go gcuireann sé deiseanna ar fáil chun teanga na bpáistí a fhorbairt.

In the task cards below we will share some ideas for teaching individual words and fostering word consciousness. In the second edition later this month we will explore some suggestions for teaching word-learning strategies and providing pupils with frequent, varied and extensive language experiences.

Aistriú scileanna: Is féidir formhór na straitéisí agus na ngníomhaíochtaí thíos a dhéanamh as Béarla agus as Gaeilge.

Teaching individual words can deepen pupils’ knowledge of word meanings. In-depth knowledge of word meanings can help pupils understand what they are hearing or reading. When teachers provide extended instruction that promotes active engagement, pupils are given repeated exposure to new words.

Fostering word consciousness: The term “word consciousness” refers to an awareness of and interest in words and their meanings (Graves & Watts-Taffe, 2002).

Learners use word-learning strategies such as root words, prefixes and suffixes in an effort to infer the meanings of unknown words they meet. Teachers must explicitly draw pupils’ attention to the range of strategies and scaffold the use of the strategies through effective teacher prompting.

Frequent, varied and extensive language experiences: Immersion in a word-rich environment which incorporates rich and varied experiences in listening, discussion, reading and writing. We want to make the classroom a word-rich environment that encourages and celebrates rich word usage.

Oral Language / Teanga ó Bhéal: Learning Outcome / Toradh Foghlama 5: Vocabulary / Stór Focal

Reading / Léitheoireacht: Learning Outcome / Toradh Foghlama 6: Vocabulary / Stór Focal

Writing / Scríbhneoireacht: Learning Outcome / Toradh Foghlama 5: Vocabulary / Stór Focal

Oral Language: Learning Outcome 5: Vocabulary

Task Card 1: Teaching Individual Words - Using literature to develop understanding of individual words

In-depth knowledge of word meanings can help pupils understand what they are hearing or reading. A great way to help children increase their vocabulary is to teach individual words. By providing extended instruction and facilitating active engagement, pupils are given repeated exposure to new words. Vocabulary instruction is most effective when it is rich, deep and extended.

Is ionchur luachmhar í an scéalaíocht chun stór focal, struchtúr abairte agus gramadach shaibhir a chur chun cinn. Moltar do mhúinteoirí an scéal céanna a léamh os ard do na páistí arís agus arís eile. Moltar comhrá ranga a bhunú ar an scéalaíocht agus focail agus frásaí ón scéal a úsáid i rith an lae chomh maith. Cabhraíonn an cleachtas seo leis na páistí stór focal agus struchtúir chruinne a shealbhú. Tá sé tábhachtach stór focal agus gramadach a mhúineadh i gcomhthéacs réalaíoch freisin.

This video illustrates a Junior Infant teacher’s rich instruction of an individual word ("ravenous"). Click on the link below to access this video.

Task Card 2: Tools to support teaching of individual words

The Primary Language Curriculum online toolkit contains a support material on 'Developing Vocabulary Within a Balanced Literacy Framework' which features some useful ideas for teaching individual word meanings to pupils. It suggests that teachers should ...

Prepare child-friendly definitions of the selected words using a sentence from the text in which they were found.
Provide further examples of the words in a range of contexts.

The online thesaurus Word Hippo can prove a helpful tool in this regard. It provides teachers, pupils and parents with access to child-friendly word definitions as well as synonyms, antonyms, pronunciations, rhyming words and examples of words being used in various sentences. Engagement with Word Hippo in the classroom can facilitate children's independence in developing their vocabulary. As it may be accessed by pupils both in school and at home, the website can be used to help deepen and expand their vocabulary in both settings as well as in a blended/remote learning context.

As outlined further in the task card below using Word Hippo in a playful way can also encourage pupils to become curious, enthusiastic 'word collectors' who enjoy noticing, learning and using lots of interesting and meaningful words. Is mór is fiú páistí a spreagadh chun focail Bhéarla, focail Ghaeilge agus focail i dteangacha eile a labhraíonn siad a bhailiú agus a iniúchadh. Baineann siad taitneamh agus tairbhe as seo!

Task Card 3: Word Consciousness - Using vocabulary games

If we can get children interested in playing with words and language, then we are at least halfway to the goal of creating the sort of word conscious pupils who will make words a lifetime interest. The following task cards illustrate a number of vocabulary games that foster word consciousness. Word consciousness integrates thinking about words, motivation to learn words and deep and lasting interest in words. We invite you to use and adapt these task cards according to the interests, needs, and abilities of the children.

Is féidir na tascanna seo a úsáid i mBéarla nó i nGaeilge, agus cabhraíonn siad chun an teanga a fhorbairt. Nuair atá an foclóir/ na frásaí nua á múineadh againn do na páistí, tá sé fíorthábhachtach úsáid a bhaint as réimse straitéisí ar nós geáitsí, focail ghaolmhara, pictiúir, gníomhaíochtaí, mímeanna, comhthéacs nó cur síos ar an bhfocal. Chomh maith leis sin is fiú úsáid a bhaint as an stór focal/ frásaí nua ar shlí atá spraíúil agus taitneamhach agus na páistí a spreagadh chun an stór focal nua a úsáid chomh minic agus is féidir leo. Mar a deir an seanfhocal ...

Cleachtadh a dhéanann máistreacht.

Task Card 4: Fostering Word Consciousness - Using riddles

Riddles are word puzzles and are, by nature, playful and enjoyable for pupils and adults alike. They challenge pupils to think creatively and, because of their play on words, can be an excellent resource for developing vocabulary. Riddles rely on words’ multiple meanings, metaphors and idioms and, as a result, are a perfect medium for deepening and expanding children’s vocabulary and teaching them how to manipulate language. They can also be used to promote comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Solving and writing riddles requires children to think flexibly about words and what their appropriate meaning might be. Task card 4a will outline how riddles can be used to extend and deepen pupils’ vocabulary in both English and Gaeilge by drawing their attention to specific words or phrases and how they are used to deceive the reader. Once exposed to riddles, task card 4b will explore how pupils can then begin to devise their own riddles, playing with and reinforcing vocabulary that has been previously taught. Spreagann tomhais páistí chun dul i mbun léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta. Meallann siad a n-aird agus baineann siad gáire astu!

We would love to see vocabulary development in action so please tag us in any work you share on Twitter using #PDST @PDSTLiteracy @PDSTGaeilge and @PDSTie.


Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., and Kucan, L. (2013). Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction (Second Edition). New York: The Guilford Press.

Graves, M. F., & Watts-Taffe, S. M. (2002). The place of word consciousness in a research-based vocabulary program. In S. J. Samuels & A. E. Farstrup (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (3rd ed., pp. 140-165). Newark, DE.

Zipke, M. (2008, October). Teaching Metalinguistic Awareness and Reading Comprehension With Riddles. The Reading Teacher, 62(2), 128–137. doi: 10.1598/RT.62.2.4


Created with images by Ben White - "untitled image" • frender - "questions concept 3d illustration"