How to Teach Word Building


Building a word is one of the fundamental steps for a child to speak a language. Usually the child picks up the words in a language that they are most exposed to. However, when you are trying to teach another language, then you have to proceed step by step.

How do Children learn words?

Sound: First, children pay attention to the way words are pronounced or the sounds that they make. This is why it is recommended that parents read often to their children.  Every time we read a story to our children, we are introducing them to familiar sounds that they later recognize as sounds that actually mean something, which is a word. That is why we also teach children nursery rhymes before they can read so that they can register the sounds of words.

Alphabets: In the next stage, we teach children how to recognize and pronounce individual letters and the sounds that they make. Today, the methodology is to teach children to read through Phonics. What is Phonics? The dictionary defines phonics as “a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with symbols in an alphabetic writing system”. Through this system children learn to pronounce the word by putting together the sounds made by each alphabet.

Spelling: We have seen that in the English language, the sound of the word and its spelling are not the same. Children have no choice but to learn these exceptions by memorizing the spellings of such words. There are also rules like “I before e, except after c“ that you can teach children to remember odd spellings.

Context: The meaning of a word in the English language is largely determined by the context of the sentence. A word may take on different meanings, depending on the context that it is used in. Therefore, it is better to teach children new words used in a sentence rather than asking them to memorize words in a standalone fashion.

WORD BUILDING GAMES:  The most fun way to help children learn anything is by playing games and playing word games is the best way to develop a great vocabulary in our children.

Taboo: This is a great game to play with your children. There is one word written on a card and your child has to describe what is written on the card without actually saying the word on the card. This game can be kicked up a notch by also mentioning two other words that cannot be mentioned while trying to express what is on the card. This makes children really think about how they can explain certain words.

Prefix and Suffix Game: Learning prefixes and suffixes is a great way to expand your child’s vocabulary. First go over the following prefixes with your child

Prefixes Meaning Example
Pre Before Preview
Un Not Unbelievable
Dis Not Disprove
Re Again Rewrite
Mis Badly Misused
Im Not Impossible
Bi Two Bicycle


Common Suffixes Meaning Example
Er Doer Teacher
Able To be able Unbelievable
Ous Full of Dangerous
Ness State of being Happiness
Ful Full of Wonderful
Ly Like gently


Write these prefixes and suffixes on small slips of paper. Fold them and put them in a jar. Have your child pick a piece of paper and make a word with that prefix or suffix. This will expand their vocabulary.

Routine building is one of the key things to develop any skill. While playing games can be fun, it is important to add a reading activity to your child’s DAILY routine. If your child is too young to read, or is not showing interest in reading, then read WITH them on a daily basis. Make it your daily bed time routine to spend 30 minutes reading with your child. Over a period of time, if your child becomes more interested, have them read to you. Appreciate their efforts and take the opportunity to read with a dictionary by your side so that you can help the child look up the word that they do not know. If having dinner as a family is a routine that you have, see how you can possibly incorporate a word building activity as you talk to each other and enjoy dinner together. These activities done on a consistent basis will go a long way in building a significant vocabulary for your child.


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