Prepare for High School With an Expanded Vocabulary

8th graders are fast approaching the end of their middle school or junior high careers. The transition from 8th  grade to high school is one of the most difficult educational challenges and many students find that the first semester of high school is overwhelming, mainly due to social changes but also because of a large step up in educational responsibility (READ: “How to Get an A Before the End of the Term”).

vocab-high-schoolOne thing that seems to be continuously lacking for students entering the 9th grade is vocabulary expansion. With increasing importance placed on test prep as well as yearly assessments and a heavier emphasis on non-fiction reading and reading comprehension general, 9th graders need to have an excellent handle on vocabulary.

Consider the 8th Grade Vocabulary List

Parents should consider looking at the 8th grade vocabulary list, easily available online,  and test their kids out with a few of the words. As soon as an 8th grader hears the word ‘test’, they are unlikely to be interested in further discussion. However, parents can easily throw in a word here or there in general conversation and see if their child knows what it means. Parents can also try a more direct approach and simply ask their children to provide a synonym for a list of words.

If 8th graders do not have a minimum of a 90% success rate on the appropriate reading list at this point in the year, they are not on track for the 9th grade. Parents are also advised to share the 6th and 7th grade word lists with their children, also available online.  Many students are surprised to find that they don’t know as many of the words on these lists as they thought. This is generally because these vocabulary words are not found in everyday language or students simply don’t remember them.

Exposure to New Words

The more a child is exposed to new words the more likely they’ll be to remember them and use them in their own speech. Students who are behind should attempt to learn 10 words a week (READ: “Five Tips for Success in English Class”). This should not detract from their current academic commitments and will not likely be overwhelming, but will start them on their way to age-appropriate vocabulary. Students who know at least 90% of the words on the 8th grade vocabulary list should move up to the 9th grade list.

Entering the 9th grade is a huge social adjustment and students are less likely to be able to advance their vocabulary during the first six months of their high school career. Students who are proficient in the 9th grade list prior to starting high school will have a much easier time in their English classes as well as any class that requires reading comprehension or research.

Vocab for Testing and College Prep

Early vocabulary expansion is also important for both college and college entrance exams, such as the SAT or ACT. College prep students attempt to learn as many as 3,500 words through simple memorization within the three months leading up to the SAT. Students will not be able to learn or memorize that many words in a short time. Because the vocabulary section is one that high school students consistently score low on, early vocabulary expansion, starting at an early age, can potentially earn test-takers up to an additional 100 points when they take their SAT.

In addition to test prep, students with advanced vocabulary also have an easier time understanding both fiction and non-fiction literature and are able to participate in class discussions more accurately and more confidently. Later in life, post-secondary students as well as professionals will find that they are often able to communicate better and more effectively with a broad vocabulary, especially adjective usage. Regardless of the reason for vocabulary expansion, it’s important for all upcoming 9th graders to make sure that they are at least at grade level if not higher.

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