We are re-imagining the dictionary
It starts with rethinking what words we should be teaching. Children learn high-frequency words such as the, walking and hospital in primary school as part of the national curriculum. There are approximately 5000 high-frequency words in the English language and they are used 95% of the time. The remaining 5% of the time we use over 200,000 rare words.
By rare, we mean words like extraordinary instead of nice and diabolical instead of nasty. Rare words are the building blocks of a robust vocabulary. These words aren’t organised in any national curriculum, and yet they are critical for success in school, especially in writing and comprehension.
The funnier the better
Pictures are attention-getters and memory-makers because they stimulate the brain’s visual memory regions. Humorous pictures create even stronger memories as they also stimulate brain regions that process emotions. We constantly replay funny things in our minds and talk about them with others.
Pairing a humorous illustration with each word helps children with comprehension and recall. Research shows that children struggle with dictionary definitions. Through Hollywood humour we can bring words to life and draw out nuanced meanings. Take for example the word indulgent.
Word lovers are better readers
Ultimately, we all want to help our children to become independent learners. We can help children develop an awareness of words, or what experts call word consciousness. Word consciousness leads to a robust and extended vocabulary, which in turn leads to better reading and writing skills.
By teaching a little at a time with lots of repetition, Mrs Wordsmith is habit-forming. Scientists from MIT show that when habits are formed, a complex circuit in the brain settles into specific, predictable patterns. By making word learning part of your child’s daily routine you help etch it into their brain.
Your child's brain is developing a 'Reading Highway'
Did you know that you can change your brain by learning new words and reading a lot? Brain scans show that both vocabulary size and reading skill are related to the size and strength of certain neural pathways, what we call ‘Reading Highways’. The more words you know and the more you read, the faster and more efficient these pathways become.
Vocabulary knowledge and reading ability strengthen each other; as one improves, so does the other. Fluent reading frees up neural resources, allowing the reader to easily comprehend what they have read. It’s like riding a bike. When you don’t have to concentrate on keeping your balance your brain is free to think about the ride and your surroundings.
Word learning is not an all or nothing process. It happens little by little, requiring as many as 4 - 12 exposures for 'mastery' or the ability to use a word properly across contexts and meanings. Children need to hear and use a word several times to reach mastery.
We use scaffolded modules that help your child learn the words gradually. Words are grouped by theme, and exercises progress from easy to more difficult, slowly deepening a child's knowledge. Other supports include our unique child-friendly definitions that are easy to understand and provide context.
The importance of
Dinner table conversation
Children learn more rare words at the dinner table than anywhere else. Knowing these words orally makes reading them later easier. So sit down to a meal and let conversation flow. Invite Mrs Wordsmith along and talk about our words! It works.