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Back-To-School Prep: Elementary Vocabulary To Build Your Kid’s Confidence

By Ashley Austrew

Last year’s pandemic shutdowns understandably made learning difficult for some kids. As we gear up for another school year, many parents are focused on making sure their kids’ reading, writing, and vocabulary skills are up to par. Vocabulary is one of the keys to literacy, and having a strong foundational vocabulary can help kids learn more and perform better across many different subjects.

Luckily, at Dictionary.com, we have customized word lists to help learners at every level improve their vocabularies, work on their spelling, and more. Getting ready for a new school year has never been simpler than with our easy-to-use digital flashcards, spelling tests, and word quizzes. The vocabulary lists below are specially prepared according to students’ needs at each grade level. Practice with your students for 10 to 15 minutes each day, try out our quizzes to see how you’re doing, and let us help get your child prepared to excel in the school year ahead.

Jump right into our library of grade-specific word lists right here, and then explore other fun topics to boost your knowledge.

Kindergarten vocabulary words and tips

In kindergarten, most kids are still laying the foundation for literacy. Some may be early readers, while others are still working on grasping the basics of phonics. At this stage, learning vocabulary typically means, for newer learners, sounding out and memorizing high frequency words and, for more advanced learners, decoding early multisyllabic words.

High frequency words are common words found in English, like the or and, that kids can learn to instantly recognize so they don’t have to sound them out every time. Sight words are similar, except sight words typically can’t be sounded out because they don’t follow common phonetic patterns. An example of this is the word could. In the case of sight words, kids typically just have to memorize them to make reading easier.

There are high frequency words and sight words at every grade level, but they hold extra importance for kindergarteners because they’re some of the very first words kids in this age group learn. To help support your kindergartener, be sure to read together daily. You can also take our kindergarten word quiz together to see how they’re doing. Here are some of the early high frequency and sight words they need to know:

 

Is your kindergartner ready to see how much they’ve learned? Then take this quiz together!

First-grade vocabulary words and tips

In first grade, kids begin building on the strong literacy foundation that was created in kindergarten. They are still learning high frequency and sight words, but the words become more complex; for instance, they may have multiple syllables or silent letters. At this stage, most kids can read simple stories and talk to parents about what they read. They are also starting to work on writing sentences and short paragraphs.

Review some of the basic rules of spelling here.

You can support kids in this stage by reading together and talking about what you’ve read, including any new or unfamiliar words you came across while reading. Your child may want to keep a word journal where they can write down and review these new words. Simple flash cards from our word lists are also a useful tool. Here are some words to focus on in first grade:

 

When your first-grader has reviewed the words and ready for more, they can take this quiz!

Second-grade vocabulary words and tips

By second grade, kids are becoming more advanced in both their reading and writing skills. They can now decode multisyllable words, like capital. They should have automatic recall of some of the simpler sight words and high frequency words they learned in first grade and kindergarten. You might also find that they’re starting to show more of an interest in reading for pleasure, and they might be developing favorite genres and authors.

Kids are also becoming stronger writers at this age. In addition to reading longer and more complex texts, a good way to practice vocabulary with them is to ask them to write a simple story using at least five to 10 words from the following word lists. Here are common words to know and learn in second grade:

 

This quiz on second grade vocabulary is the perfect assessment after reviewing these lists. Take it here.

Third-grade vocabulary words and tips

Third grade is an exciting year for learners. They have mastered many of the basics of literacy, and are building on these skills through reading both fiction and non-fiction. Most third graders can now use letter-sound correspondence knowledge and structural analysis to decode words. They’re able to read independently, and they should be reading fluidly when they read out loud.

The vocabulary kids learn at this stage can help them in other subjects, like science and math, as well. It may be helpful to give them access to the Dictionary.com app to look up new words as they read. Third graders may also have fun testing their knowledge with our spelling tests and word quizzes. Here are some of the new vocabulary words third graders may encounter:

 

Third grade vocabulary becomes a fun challenge with this quiz inspired by our word lists!

Fourth-grade vocabulary words and tips

By fourth grade, kids are engaging with words and language on a deeper level. They will encounter lots of new words as they read and study other subjects, but they are typically able to use previous knowledge to decode unfamiliar multisyllable words. They can also read with more accurate comprehension and better pacing, and their writing becomes more complex as well.

Take advantage of your child’s growing skills by introducing some of these educational games  that will be fun for everyone.

Many of the terms kids will need for fourth grade include words they’ll use in math, science, and history. To help them get a good grasp of how these words are used, encourage them to read and look for the words in age-appropriate news articles or online research sources. They can quiz themselves with flashcards on Dictionary.com, as well as take advantage of our quizzes and games. Here are three lists of essential fourth grade vocabulary words to help you get started:

 

Reviewed all these words? Then it’s time to take the fourth grade vocabulary quiz!

Fifth-grade vocabulary words and tips

Many fifth graders have mastered the foundations of literacy and decoding words. Now, they may be interested in expanding their vocabularies to help them read and comprehend more complex texts, understand new concepts at school, and become better writers and communicators.

Fifth graders are starting to do more complex school work, like research projects, book reports, and science projects. Studying new vocabulary can help them deepen their understanding of the things they read and explore. Knowing more words also simply makes it easier to read and write at every level.

Vocabulary is often easiest to learn in practice. At this age, kids may enjoy starting a book club with peers and discussing the vocabulary, concepts, and themes they encounter in their favorite books. They may also have a lot of fun recording new words they learn, checking them out on Dictionary.com, and using our quizzes and spelling lists to test their own knowledge. Here are some terms kids are likely to come across and need to know to excel in fifth grade:

 

This fifth grade vocabulary quiz is waiting for anyone whose word skills are prepared for a challenge.


Ashley Austrew is a freelance journalist and writer from Omaha, Nebraska. Her work has been published at CosmopolitanScary MommyScholastic, and other outlets. For more by Ashley, read: “Teacher” vs. “Tutor”: Why Most Kids Need Both | Leave The Best Impression With Our Tips For National Proofreading Day Make Your Writing The Star Of National Grammar Day With These Tips

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