In my many years of Primary school teaching I found that children are coming into contact with new vocabulary all the time in all subjects. I introduced a personal dictionary for each child – writing a word down and the dictionary work really helps to fix words into long term memory. So through the school year they built up a huge number of new words, their meanings and the correct pronunciation. Just as children had a personal spelling list and would test each other on a weekly basis, so they also had a new words test. They exchanged books and the child testing would say the first letter and the definition. The child being tested got five points for the right word, and five more for the correct spelling.
I found that just saying the meaning of a word rarely fixes it in the memory. But writing it down and using it in speech and writing really works!
Students complained that the definitions in dictionaries are often hard to understand and often have more vocabulary they don’t understand! I have simplified the definitions.
So the seeds were sown! It took a few more years to get things really moving. I have tried to introduce a variety of English words, not just adjectives, but also verbs, nouns and adverbs. I have put a lot of emphasis on the visual aspects of the three books I’ve finished so far. I have created books of essential vocabulary and also picture books. I chose ten popular themes for each book and designed many fun situations for the main characters. And Walt and Winnie’s Wondrous Words was born!
The books are for individual use and for class teaching. So they can be an important part of vocabulary building in schools, or books that children and parents can use at home.
Later I’m going to describe how teachers can teach vocabulary successfully with hundreds of tips.