Guns, drugs, and illicit vocabulary.

Title inspired by Clare Sealy (@ClareSealy). Blog inspired by Philip Pullman via Tim Roach (@MrTRoach).

Primary Rocks talk 18

Yesterday, it was an honour to lead a session at Primary Rocks Live ’18 (The Presentation). Thank you to everyone who came to watch it.

This blog is a war cry. It is unlikely to be succinct or cohesive, but it is guaranteed to be borne from a coiled spring of passion itching to be unwound.

You’re in a classroom with thirty children in front of you. The attitude and learning behaviour of those children is irrelevant at this moment, so shelve the ‘But my kids won’t do that’ excuse. They are still children. Children who are going to eventually leave your class, progress to the next phase of their education, and ultimately leave education to join the workforce in whatever capacity. You, in this moment, have the power. The power to empower. With words.

Words are humanity’s most valuable tool. They are our daily currency; irrespective of mother tongue, idiolect, sociolect, dialect or accent. They convey our thoughts, emotions, and provide a vessel to describe actions. A word can change the world. And if the words you say can’t / won’t change the world, then make absolutely sure that they change your children’s worlds.

You prepare and cook the ‘food’ in your classroom. You control the learning diet. This diet, much like the one our bodies require to function at a high level, must be rich and varied. And vocabulary is the foundation for a good one.

You control the learning diet.

Control: the power to direct or influence people’s behaviour, or the course of events.

Specifically, this means that you do not bombard children with fruity language. Not least without explicit instruction of what those words actually mean, and how they can be used. The whole reason that you provide a rich, varied diet of words is to empower your children to go deeper, to look beneath the surface. To choose. To select *that* word which fits the sentence they’re writing, or *that* word which perfectly encapsulates what they’re trying to say, or *that* word which describes exactly how they’re feeling in a way that just makes them feel instantly better.

Start teaching individual words. Explicitly explain the links the new word has with other words they know. Create a buzz around words. The only person that can do that is you.


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