Teaching vocabulary to children is a truly herculean task. It is obvious that parents cannot teach children all unknown words. That is why words for lexical instructions need to be carefully selected.
It seems that the selection process proposed by Beck et al. (2013) based on vocabulary parsed in three tiers is a sensible method of choosing words for teaching to young children.
According to this method vocabulary can be divided in three groups:
Tier 1 – basic vocabulary – words that frequently appear in spoken, everyday language. Examples of Tier 1 words are girl, sleep, happy, take away, run, house. Although it is often suggested that Tier 1 words do not require specific instruction, it might not be always true in the context of some English language learners.
Tier 2 – high frequency vocabulary (sometimes referred as academic vocabulary) that is used by mature language users and frequent in books and reading materials. Examples of Tier 2 words for young children (4-5 years old) are attention, consequence, decision, invitation, ignore. Tier 2 words differ in difficulty, therefore they might be more challenging for older children (5-6 years old): strategy, fortunate, industrious, argument, character, volunteer, persuade or teenagers: framework, outcomes, deduction, validity, debate, implication. It is generally accepted that Tier 2 words offer the best instructional value since they promote children’s reading comprehension. Parents should focus their early efforts on this group of words.
Tier 3 – low-frequency vocabulary – is advanced vocabulary in specific content areas or domains (e.g. mathematics, biology, chemistry). Tier 3 words help children build conceptual knowledge. The examples are photosynthesis, isotope, mineral. They are frequent in informational texts. Despite their conceptual difficulty, they are actually well-scaffolded in texts and English language learners frequently learn these words together with monolingual children. Parents of English language learners should focus on developing Tier 3 vocabulary in home language.
Important points for parents to consider: