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Word Aware

As a school we are enhancing the way we teach vocabulary by using the strategies and ideas from the ‘Word Aware’ program. Word Aware is a comprehensive and structured approach to use throughout the school to promote vocabulary development in all children.

Children need twelve meaningful encounters of a word before they really know it. Word Aware promotes a method called STAR, which stands for Select, Teach, Activate and Review. This process ensures the children encounter the new words many times and many different ways.


How Word Aware will help your child:


Word Aware allows us, using a whole school approach, to teach all pupils how to understand the relationship between words, how to understand nuances in meaning, and how to develop their understanding of, and ability to use, figurative language.  Pupils will be taught how to work out and clarify the meanings of unknown words and words with more than one meaning.  Word aware is equally effective for specific classes and groups or individual learners.  It builds on the knowledge of the components of a word.


The Star method:



The teacher will select the appropriate words to teach using the Word Aware approach.  These will be really useful words which are likely to be encountered again in spoken language or reading.  The average adult will have a good level of knowledge of the word.  Topic words will be taught where they are core to topic learning.



Teaching covers phonological sound, syntactic grammar and semantic meaning. In other words, we will be teaching the sound and initial letters of the word; what word class it is (for example, a noun, adjective, adverb, verb) including how the word is structured in a sentence; and what the word means.  Children will have access to dictionaries to look up the word, they will consider synonyms and will create their own sentences with the word to consolidate meaning.  Other activities used include: word raps, word songs, acting out the word,  discussing prefixes and suffixes, symbols or pictures, spelling of the word, syllables, rhyme, physically experiencing the word (where possible), using objects, links to what the children already know and identifying related situations that the word does not apply to.



The teacher will then ask relevant questions to explore and activate the meaning of the word.  Example questions are shown below:




Once a word is taught, it is placed on a word wall.  These words then need to be reviewed (repeated) by the class in both their writing or their spoken language (both needed in the right context).  In addition, we play games to consolidate our understanding of these words and will send out a list of words (fridge words) we will teach each half term to allow you to discuss and review these words with your child at home.


At Hobbayne, we understand that words are important.  We all need to understand and use a wide range of vocabulary to succeed at school and in life.  To progress with reading children need to understand the words they decode.  To write well they need a wide and varied use of words.  To understand all subjects including maths, science and social studies they need to understand the words that are used.  We want to have fun with words.  We seek to promote speaking and listening as these are foundation skills for reading and writing.  We are all very excited about this new programme and where the approach has been trialled children have enjoyed the experience.


What you can do to support the Word Aware approach:

Find it - before or even after reading a book with your child identify words they might not understand, write them down and ask them to find it in the story, can they then use the clues and their reading skills to work out what it means. They could use a dictionary to find the meaning or look in a thesaurus to find words with similar meanings.


Dictionary Definition – ask your child to choose a number based on how many pages you have in your dictionary. Then choose a number between 1-20, again depending on the average number of words on the page. Then when you have told them the initial letter read them the definition, can they guess the word you are describing?


Articulate – describe a word without using key words, you can buy this or make your own version with your child’s topic words.


Splat it – give a definition from a selection of target words and your child can say which one you are describing by either hitting it with a fly swat or by throwing beanbags or a pair of bunched up socks.


Word group spinner – as demonstrated when the computer failed you don’t really need anything fancy, just something to point with or a pot to hold the cards. On one side have 4 letters and on the other 4 categories such as noun, verb, adjective, living thing, food etc. then choose one from both sides and see if you can find 5 words to fit the sound and category. Either do it together or turn it into fastest wins!


Treasure Hunt – on the way to and from school, look for things you could describe by a particular word like shrivelled or spiky. Categories such as living things, things with circles, things with engines.


Touch, taste and smell – take every opportunity to describe sensory experiences. Ask them to describe it to you, try to encourage them to use more detailed words than nice or bad, such as rough or sweet.


Word of the day or week – as a family see how many times you can use your target word in a meaningful way during the week. The only rules are the sentence must make sense and fit into your conversation.

Remember to try and use these new words in your conversations to embed them into your child’s vocabulary

Try some of these ideas and become splendiferous word detectives together!