[Part I of II] What might a daily word learning session look like? STAR approach.

[Pssst. If you click on a screenshot of a tweet, it’ll take you to that tweeter’s profile!]

This is part one of a two-part blog about what a daily word learning session might look like. This approach is based on the STAR process by Blachowicz & Fisher (2010), and is the approach primarily used in @WordAware‘s ‘Teaching Vocabulary Across the Curriculum’. Below is what a ten/fifteen-minute session might look like for the word simmering.



All words have been selected for their usefulness, for their frequency in texts, and for their regular use in multiple situations throughout the topic. This will allow the children to be exposed to each word numerous times. Children will also be given ample opportunity to use the words in their writing.


Semantics (meaning):Simmering means cooking at just below boiling point. If something is simmering, it is cooking gently. A simmering saucepan of water might have a few bubbles on the surface, but would be quite flat.’

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 19.44.18

Context: ‘In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone the sentence with simmering in it is: ‘ … understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes.’

‘Turn the heat down so the sauce simmers gently.’

Interesting Twitter exchange about different contexts and future review here:

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 20.12.59

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 20.12.18

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 20.28.17

Action: Use your body to vibrate very slightly whilst saying the word simmering. Children to copy a few times. Saying the word each time.

Phonology (sounds): 

  • Say the word to your partner, listening carefully to how it sounds.
  • Say it slowly, trying to listen to all of the sounds.
  • Clap the syllables.
  • What speech sound does the word start with?
  • What does it rhyme with? (these are allowed to be nonsense words e.g. bimmering, himmering, shimmering)

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 20.30.38

Record the word for future reference: Write simmering on a card and place it on the Working Word Wall. After, ask someone to write simmering on a small card and put it in the Word Pot.


  • Complete the idea: Jack described the soup as simmering because it was …
  • What is the same or different about these two words: boiling / simmering.
  • Describe the word simmering to your friend.
  • Act out a situation which demonstrates the word. If stuck, give imagine you are a chef as a hint.
  • If a cauldron was simmering, what would you expect to see?


This is to be done for the rest of the week (and thereafter), whenever any opportunity arises. The word will also go on the ‘fridge words’ to be sent home on Friday.

Review the word at the end of the day:

  • What was the word again?
  • What have you learned about the word today?
  • Let’s ‘show’ the word together.
  • When do you think you might use this word again?
  • Tell the person next to you how you’re going to remember the word.

Encourage children to use in independent writing:

  • Refer to/use the word wall.

Other options:

  • Listening out for the word.
  • Using it where possible in speech.
  • Reviewing using games in future daily sessions.
  • ‘Talk to me about the word …’ stickers.

This isn’t a ‘best way of teaching vocabulary’ plan. This is my first thoughts on paper about how I’m going to deliver vocabulary instruction through daily sessions next year. Part II will look at an approach involving lots of games as part of a ‘Word Workshop’. I aim to deliver a mixture of sessions to keep it interesting, and mix it up a bit.

If you can spare the time, I would love any feedback on this. Let’s make it a collaborative document. Let’s work together to create something here. How can we best teach this? I hosted a vocabulary special on #PrimaryRocks on Monday, and I now know for a fact that there are a host of teachers that are as enthusiastic about vocabulary as I am.

Here’s the Microsoft Word version (Word Workshop STAR [simmering]) in case you’d like to edit/improve/comment via that method. If you’d like to discuss more, you can either use the comments section on this blog, find me on Twitter (@Mr_P_Hillips), or use the contact page available somewhere on this website.


3 thoughts on “[Part I of II] What might a daily word learning session look like? STAR approach.

  1. As always an excellent, informative blog.
    Phonology has a significant impact on future word retrieval. A few minutes exploring syllables, rhyme,initial and final sounds would be valuable. Are you starting with simmer then exploring variations with suffixes?
    A visual prompt to support the word alongside an action could be useful. A rap (Word Aware) song or rhyme has worked really well for me in the past.
    Love the idea of word stickers.
    Is it a whole school initiative?
    I am sure as you work with your class the process will evolve, as any teaching sequence does.
    Like the idea of working collaboratively. I am sure there will be many suggestions. At the end of the day though, you are the one teaching so you need to be true to yourself.

    1. Ah, thank you, Carol! You’ve just alerted me to the fact that the phonology section is unfinished! I will update now! As for working collaboratively, I just mean I want to discuss things with others and share great ideas!

  2. Thank you for your fantastic review. I surely like the way you write.After i found your book review i started searching and found the book on http://justreadbook.com/book/1037193578/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-enhanced-edition . Not sure if i can to paste a link(forgive me if not) . Now i almost finished the book and i I must say Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a awesome book and everyone should read it. Anyway i came back just to say that the book is great and also your book review.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.