MR P HEADWhere did it all start?

Truthfully, I have no idea. Words have just been a fascination to me throughout life. There are certain words that hooked me in. You know, the words that just ‘sound cool’. Maelstrom. Decimate. Frenetic. Incandescent. Perplex. Miasma. I can’t explain it, words are simply awesome. And it’s this sort of attitude that we, as teachers, must be instilling in the children we teach. Lots of children have a natural curiosity towards words. They will ask, ‘oh, what does that mean?’. Of course, there are those that don’t, but that is for a future post. I read a thesaurus on a regular basis. I read fiction with a notebook next to me to record new words, then discover their meanings, synonyms, and etymologies later. And my kids know it.

word cloud

What do I want to do with this blog?

BIG IDEA: an unrelenting, day-in-day-out focus on developing a rich, varied vocabulary will change your classroom; will change your teaching; will change your children; will change their lives.

I want this blog to be a smorgasbord (check out the origins of that word, it’s quite extraordinary) for teaching ideas, strategies, research, links to books, links to other blogs/articles, and, arguably most importantly, a running commentary of my own classroom practice in terms of cultivating an attitude where vocabulary is the driving pulse of everything we do. I genuinely believe it’s that crucial.

Plus, I want to share the bad. And the ugly. Sure, it’s great telling people about all the positive stuff we’re doing. But everyone knows that we must fail to succeed, simply because we all do it. I want to share what’s not worked with the class, what hasn’t been successful for a specific group of children.

NB: I will be focusing on primary, in the main. However, my interest in the subject goes right down to early word learning and speech development. So don’t be put off if you’re an EYFS teacher – there will be something for you at various intervals.

Next up …

So, there you have a glimpse into the reasons why I’m doing this. I plan (always set out with good intentions!) to post once weekly. And, seeing as today is Thursday, Thursday shall be the day.

Next blog: 2016/17 vocabulary review – what have I done in the classroom over the course of this school year that’s worked/not worked/or just … had a stab at?

If you can spare a further two minutes, please answer these questions in the comments section:

What is your favourite word?

What would you like to see most of in this blog? (e.g. teaching ideas, games, strategies, research, classroom-based practice …)

Thank you!

Twitter: @Mr_P_Hillips – please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Always up for a chat about words.


41 thoughts on “Welcome.

  1. My favourite word changes all the time but ‘corruscate’ is a big fave as well as ‘quark’.
    I have a year five class next year with a wide range of ability but a collective weakness in spelling. I’m hoping lighting a fire of enthusiasm for language at the word level might help them focus on the need to improve their spelling a bit – respect for the word, man. So I want lots of ideas for building a passion and a sense of fun around words and spelling. Can you do that for me?

    1. I can certainly give it my best shot. It’s exactly the attitude I think I’ve achieved with the majority of my class this year. Always areas to improve, but we can do this together. Have no problem linking spelling in with it too – all inextricably linked.

      Respect for the word, man. Word.

  2. As you know I can’t thank you enough for my sons new found love of words this year. He amazes us with some of the words he comes out with (and to be honest we have to Google some of them).
    His word of the day today is- prevaricate.

  3. Fab blog! A favourite word is so hard to choose but I think it would have to be denouement. Followed a close second by nefarious – just love the way it sounds!

  4. My favourite word is ‘subterranean’ mainly I just like the sound of it. It rolls quite beautifully off the tongue. Oh, I also like the way Melvyn Bragg says ‘tongue which is ‘tong’. Tong.

    I don’t want to see anything specific from your blog just enjoy reading the critical texts that your exploring, and using them to inform your pedagogy. I liked how you said you would share the good and the bad – I think this would make for a more honest and reflective blog. I wish you the best of luck.

    1. Thanks, Mat. Lots of people agreeing that just the sound of certain words makes them like them, and has helped their own love develop.

      Will be referencing key texts throughout, there have been a few that have really shaped my thinking on it.

  5. Really pleased to see you starting this venture Mr Phillips. Your enthusiasm alone will spur us teachers on in the drive for immersing kids in quality vocabulary. I’m particularly interested to hear your ideas on developing vocabulary in a variety of fun and creative ways, which I can adapt for Year 2.

    My favourite word at the moment is ‘rigourously’ because sometimes I like words which sound similar to their meaning.

    Good luck, pal!

    1. Appreciate that, mate. Thank you. We’re all in this together – I just want to help and share!

      I wonder if there’s a word for words that ‘sound similar to their meaning?

  6. I’ll be interested to follow this. Something I need to develop, though I absolutely love words! My two favourites are esoteric and gregarious. Oh, and I love the words mellifluous (my favourite to say out loud), sanguine and inexorable. Great blog idea!

  7. I don’t have a favourite word! Of all the ones that ran through my mind just now, “mandible” made me the happiest.
    I want to see whatever you want to put. If it’s anything to do with words and primary, I’ll enjoy it.

    1. After reading ‘Beetle Boy’ and ‘Beetle Queen’ this year, I like your choice of ‘mandible’!

      It’ll be to do with words and primary, so looking forward to sharing with you!

  8. My favourite word is ‘gobbledygook’. I remember learning it in primary school, and thinking ‘that can’t be a real word.’ Your blog made me reflect and I suppose it was that one teacher, with an interest in words, who instilled my fascination.

  9. This is a superb blog, fellow wordsmiths are sharing some excellent choices! Favourites of mine that can be applied in multiple situations are majestically, punctilious and travesty.

    1. Thank you, Alexandra (Alex?) … It’s been tremendous to see so many fellow wordsmiths – wordsmith teachers too – enjoying and commenting on the blog.

      ‘Punctilious’ has appeared a number of times in ‘The Girl with all the Gifts’ and ‘The Boy on the Bridge’, which I’m currently reading.

  10. Nice one Mr P! I’m really looking forward to reading this – so much so that I’ve even hit the “Follow” button. 😊

    After a lovely discussion in class last week my current favourite word is “embellish/ment”. We talked about white lies, precious objects and glitter!

    So few Y6 children had heard of this word (which surprised me) so my request would be for direct strategies for widening vocabulary.

    How could I build this successfully into daily practice in all subjects and and not just English?

    1. Thank you, you star!

      Great to hear about your discussions with your class – that’s what it’s all about!

      There will be lots of ideas and strategies posted which I’ve either used/trialled/discovered from other sources.

      The daily practice aspect is the big movement I want to get going. Watch this space!

  11. One favourite word from years ago is ‘die glühbirne’ – the German word for lightbulb that literally translates as ‘glow pear’. Learnt it when I spent a few months in Berlin as a uni student.

    And more recently, after hearing Kate DiCamillo speak, I like the word ‘capacious’.

    Looking forward to your blog unfolding, thanks.

    1. Hey, thanks for commenting, Rebecca. Wow. That’s gorgeous. I’ll be telling my students about ‘glow pear’.

      Kate DiCamillo is fantastic. Her books are so rich with language.

  12. How nice to meet you blog-wise! Thank you for showing interest in my post. I have one other post that has to do with vocabulary: How Big is a Big Word?

    A favorite word of mine is “ambivalent.” Whenever I taught vocabulary (during my life as a wage-earner), I always had the word in the first list of words to know. It has a pleasant sound and it speaks to the human condition-especially teenagers!

    I don’t have any particular “likes” for your blog. I think whatever you do I’ll like it.

    1. Hi, Paul! Yes, I’ve read your ‘How Big is a Big Word’ post! It’s great.

      “Ambivalent” is a brilliant sounding word, you’re so right.

      Thanks for commenting. Really looking forward to seeing how the blog develops.

  13. I’ve enjoyed looking at a mountain bike advert with the kids this week that was full of words that were interesting to them – just a lovely sentence ‘… for the chargers and the thrillseekers who earn their rowdy descents through nailing technical singletrack and lungbusting climbs.’ I think our class’ favourite word of the week is rowdy. Love the blog.

    1. Hi, Andy! Thanks for getting in touch. Think it’s great when words are looked at and discussed in real-life contexts, ones that the kids are interested in too! The vocabulary behind Pokemon names and their attack moves had a similar effect on me.

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