Word Lists to Help Students Memorize Important Life Words

Memorization may be your child's best tool for learning words.

Tween girl using tablet at desk, assisted by teacher

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Whatever your academic level or career choice, you will need certain words to function in the community. Some words are important for safety: danger, stop, and hot for example. Others are necessary for giving or receiving basic instructions: on, off, up, enter, and so forth.

Once you've mastered such basic vocabulary, you can move on to more complex words that may be important in specific locations, for certain jobs, or under particular circumstances. The term "high voltage," for example, is not likely to pop up every day. When it does, however, it's terribly important that you be able to read it, understand it, and respond appropriately. The same is true of words like "flammable," "trespassing," and "biohazard."

For children, teens, and adults with word recognition and reading difficulties, word lists can be the key to success. Memorization, often based on the visual appearance of words, can be a "workaround" that makes many activities possible. For community activities ranging from employment to transportation to participation in community events, basic literacy is key.

Word Recognition for Community Safety and Success

Children and adults with learning disabilities, especially disabilities that relate to reading, comprehension, and/or pronunciation of written language, are just as likely to need key community-related words as anyone else. It's very important, therefore, that they have memorized the appearance, pronunciation, and meaning of each. 

Why is this such a big deal?

  • Imagine a young adult attempting to fill out a medical form and getting stuck on the question "Are you male or female?"
  • Consider how tough it would be to fill out a job application if you're not certain about the meaning of the written words "telephone number" or "appointment".
  • What would happen if your child were unable to respond quickly because they couldn't quickly and accurately understand and respond to the words "poison" or "emergency"?

Tips for Using Word List Memorization to Improve Independence, Safety, and Success

Word lists for memorization are a good way to help your child work toward independence in their community and in adult life. Comprehension is also strengthened by memorization of list words. Often, for people with intellectual or learning disabilities, what's being memorized is not phonics related. Instead, memorization may revolve around the physical appearance of words.

These list words include objects and concepts your child will see out in the community, in stores, public transportation, and other public places. The first list words in this group are suitable for upper primary grades and middle school. Examples include boy, girl, in, out, bus stop, park, and store. More complex list words are also appropriate for high school and college students with learning disabilities and developmental disabilities. These include caution, high voltage, pharmacy, and ambulance.

As your child works through this list, consider using different techniques to help your child internalize them. For example:

  • Point out the words in the real world.
  • Have your child make signs using the words and roleplay their use at home.
  • Play games in which each person must use one of the list words in a sentence.
  • Create word-search games containing some of the words.

The more familiar your child becomes with these very important words, the more likely they are to recognize them in the real community setting.

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4 Sources
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