Are you ‘Word Aware’?

Are you ‘Word Aware’?

As speech and language therapists, both on a 1:1 basis and in small groups, supporting children with vocabulary difficulties is an integral part of our job. We are constantly on the look-out for effective resources and approaches to keep therapy fresh and children engaged.

Written by Anna Branagan & Stephen Parsons, ‘Word Aware’ is primarily a whole school approach to teaching children vocabulary.

There are two books: ‘Word Aware’ & ‘Word Aware in the Early Years’.

The approaches focus on children up to the end of Key Stage 2 but the ideas can be adapted for Key Stage 3.

‘Word Aware in the Early Years’ is particularly useful for teaching concepts: over 70 basic concepts are covered, with practical ideas and activities on how to teach these in interesting, memorable ways.

Word Aware sets out the key principles for effective vocabulary-teaching. Rate your setting against these important points:

  • Build a strong foundation: target vocabulary learning EARLY!
  • Make words a priority: build a word-rich environment, promote language, have fun with words!
  • Maintain a sustained effort: teach vocabulary across ages, a whole school approach.
  • Use a range of methods: sensory experiences, adapt over time to maintain interest.
  • Go with the child (at the right rate): select words at the right level. Teach concepts one at a time
  • Use multiple exposures: children need to hear a word lots of times. They need to linkwords with their existing knowledge
  • Teach words in context: provide “hands-on” experiences, follow the child’s lead
  • Teach strategies: children need to develop their own strategies to become good at learning words

Information about “selecting the right words” is particularly useful. It can be quite a challenge to know where to start when there are so many topic words! Word Aware breaks down the task of choosing by identifying 3 groups of words. Here is an example using Pirates as the topic:

Anchor words: children have a good understanding of these words, they are used at home and in school in daily interactions e.g. swim, ship, pirate

Goldilocks words: these words are the focus for the direct teaching of vocabulary – really useful words which are likely to be encountered again and again across topics e.g. adventure, sink, sail, brave. (Why ‘Goldilocks words’? Words in this group are “not too easy, not too hard, but just right!”. It’s important to include a range of different types of words – nouns, verbs & adjectives).

Step-on words: less likely to be encountered in other subjects: subject-specific words: palm tree, eye patch, treasure map.

To see our recent presentation ‘ Teaching Vocabulary in small groups’ and the resources to accompany it click here

Word Aware website:

April 16, 2019

You might also like…