FINAL: Word of the Day

I want to share with you a first draft of a ‘word of the day’-type activity to support vocabulary learning and using the Word Gang to support a love for vocabulary. Below, you will find the draft, but first, allow me to explain the rationale behind it.

Target word: The target word is presented in the middle of the page along its word class e.g. noun, verb, adjective etc.

Phonology: This section breaks the target word up into syllables and, with the help of Emmett, offers a range of ways that the children can use their voices to say the word. Where possible, the ways suggested will link with the target word. For example, for ‘exasperated’, Emmett might suggest saying the word in an irritated voice.

Definition: The definition offered is taken from Collins COBUILD, which aims to put definitions into child-friendly language to allow all leaners to access the meaning of the word quickly.

Synonyms / antonyms: These are included to allow children to build a strong picture of what the target word means and hopefully to link it with words they may already know. What we’re trying to do here is get the target word to ‘hook on’ to children’s pre-existing word knowledge. There will always be a synonym coloured green; this is the most recognisable synonym available. The antonyms are helpful as they show children what the target word does not mean.

Morphology: This is a crucial section for me and one that I want to get right. It aims to show children two important things: that knowing this word paves the way to understanding a host of others (its ‘family’) and to expose them to the full range of affixes and how they modify meaning. My questions relate to whether the use of bold letters/colouring/underline would be of use here.

Sentences/context: This section is important as it allows the children to see the target word in a written context. The sentences are carefully designed to reinforce meaning and not misdirect children to potential incorrect meanings.

Children’s response: The activity finishes with a chance for the children to respond via drawing, writing, or showing (maybe through drama) how they now know what the target word means.

General idea: This activity could be used in many ways, but it is really up to you as to how and when you use it. For me, these are the absolute basics that you should be doing when learning a new word.

Here is the draft. I’m very approachable and responsive to feedback, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have anything – positive or negative – to say. Thank you.

First draft:


Second draft:


Final draft:

Copy of OPPOSE WOTD (1)

Thank you all for your feedback. There are some ideas I’m still mulling over in terms of offering a supporting sheet with a couple of simple activities on it to check understanding.

Daily Vocabulary Planning [OVERVIEW]

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I am not an expert in vocabulary, nor do I profess to be. The plans I will release will be curated using the knowledge that I have on direct vocabulary instruction mixed with other pedagogy. I will provide the best that I possibly can – that is a promise. 

It is important to note that every technique/activity/idea that I include within the plans has been tried and tested in my own classroom with Y4 children. Some work better than others, which is cool because there are no silver bullets with vocabulary teaching. The only things close to a silver bullet are encouraging wide reading for pleasure, and actively teaching words.

My plans are a starting point. They should not be considered as the Holy Grail of explicit vocabulary instruction. It is me trying to help other teachers to get started with teaching words by providing planning. Whilst I hope you find them really useful and most of all your kids love them, I would appreciate feedback wherever possible. I am not easily offended, and will take anything and everything on board.

My influences to date are:

The first plans – which will be a week’s worth and released weekly – are to be released on the evening of Sunday 8th April 2018.

Thank you!

Y4 English terminology (KO)

This is vocabulary related, kind of. I’ve designed a knowledge organiser – of sorts – for my Y4 children to use when writing.

You may download a copy for free here: ENGLISH KO. Please feel free to edit and reproduce as you see fit. Although, I do ask politely that you do not sell for personal profit if using this template, or KO per se. Thank you!

Other free resources available:

Latin roots matching activity

Latin root word flashcards

Greek root words matching activity

Greek root word flashcards

Greek root word posters

Latin root word posters

Fridge words template

‘BOOK SCRUTINY’ – A peek inside the Power of Words.

As promised in an earlier blog, here’s a collection of photos from the Power of Words books the children use to record their vocabulary learning during our daily ten-minute sessions.

A reminder of the stipulations:

  • Children DO NOT have to write anything down apart from the word we are learning.

That’s it.

At the moment, the children are given free reign in how they want to record their understanding of each word. Some choose to stick to pictures, which is absolutely fine.

I’d like to make clear that these have been chosen at random. I’m not showing you my ‘best’ examples necessarily. I think you’ll find it interesting looking at the range of methods the children have employed in terms of presentation and learning.

If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to chat. I’m always on the lookout for ways to develop these sessions.

Ooh, if you have any feedback about the learning itself, do let me know and I can pass on to the kids!

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Vocabulary: how to plan it.

Teaching words within a context is crucial if you want that word to embed in your children’s memories. The way I’m trying to achieve this at the moment is by planning the words I teach carefully in relation to the current topic, writing units, and speaking opportunities.

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In this blog, I want to try and give you an insight into how I choose the words I will teach during the daily vocabulary sessions that run in my classroom. I will do this by looking back at a week from last half term. Here goes.

Overarching topic: Potions.

Writing unit: instructions texts.

Words taught: simmering, potent, precise, concoct, consume.

Why? The children were tasked to write instructions for a witch/wizard//apothecary to make a potion of their choosing. Simmering offered a great way to describe how the brew would look when it was either ready to be served, or ready to move on to the next instruction. It also opened discussion to how this word was different to similar words like hot and boilingPotent was my favourite word of the week, it really got children thinking about the strength, power, and effectiveness of their elixirs. What ingredients in particular would give it its potency?  Precise was taught as we were learning about how to use exact measurements to ensure whoever was making the potion used the correct amount. This gave it a real context, and the children now had a word to describe why their measurements had to be accurateConcoct provided lots of different ways to describe their mixture. We spoke about how we were mixing lots of ingredients together, and how we could use the word as a noun (concoction). Consume fitted really nicely with our ‘How do you know its worked’ section. Some children had chosen to create powders, liquids, tinctures, even potent cakes (true story), and this word gave the opportunity to talk about how their potions would be taken by their … subjects.

All these words have been specifically chosen to allow children to use these words as often as possible in their speech and writing. If vocabulary is planned like this, it then lends itself much easier to your teaching, and the things you say. Therefore exponentially increasing the amount of exposures these words get.

All of the words taught each work go home on a sheet called ‘Fridge Words’. This is a Word Aware idea. The sheet I send home looks like:

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If you would like a copy >> Fridge words template. Each sheet includes the words taught, and a definition from the Collins COBUILD (available for free online); it’s important that the parents know what the words mean, too!

If you are doing your own daily sessions, or would like to start, I would love to talk to you and help in any way I can. I’m not an expert by any means, just a teacher who loves words, and really believes in the power words can have with children.

The dawn of vocab mania.

To all those managing to share a blog a week as part of the #WeeklyBlogChallenge, I salute you. Setting up a mortgage, getting married, and prepping for a brand new year has rendered me blogless for the past month. However, after a brilliant first week back at school with my new kids, I’m more than enthused to get back on the blogwagon.

The good news – there isn’t really any bad news – is that I already know my class are going to fly with their vocabulary this year. They’ve already taken on board my avidity for words, and are already exhibiting word-loving behaviour. I didn’t really do anything special to make this happen. Talking about words, fun with words, and how important vocabulary actually is with fervour and passion is all it takes to set the verbivorian wheels in motion.

What have I put in place so far to help the growth of vocabulary in my classroom?

  • Daily 10-minute word learning session.

On a couple of days, this has been really hard to fit in. But we have to try, because it has been well worth it. The words we’ve learned this week are: simmering, potent, precise, concoct, and consume. The children have their own ‘Power of Words’ books to record in. As this is the first time I’ve given kids their own exercise books specifically for vocabulary, I’ve allowed them free reign with how they present/record/jot/note etc. Of course, I have given them ideas and suggestions, but it is largely up to them. The idea behind this is that after the first term of word learning sessions, I’ll be able to look through the books and take ‘best practice’, if you like, to then move onto something more structured and concise. However, it may turn out that giving total control to the children proves to be the best method for recording, and ultimately learning, new words.

So far, it is clear that my children love to portray new words as pictures. I would say as much as 90% of them have chosen to draw a picture of a situation where the target word is being used. Something to bear in mind, I feel.

  • Vocabulary Ninja Reward System.

This comes from the fantastic topic packs that the Ninja has been releasing recently (available here). I’ve modified it slightly to incorporate a ‘belt’ system similar to that of various martial arts. For great vocabulary usage, children will receive a sticker in their books to tell them which belt they’ve earned (first one is white, highest one is gold). Each child then has their own ‘Ninja ID’ to be placed on a wall display showing the belts, and where each child is.

  • Unrelenting praise and encouragement.

This is simple, as all of us do this. Something as simple as ‘top vocab’ is all it takes for when a child uses a great word. Drawing the whole class’s attention to the use of a great word is also fruitful.

  • You.

You are the catalyst for vocabulary development in your classroom. Your words, your turns of phrase, your excitement, your modelled speech and writing … this is what really drives the vocabulary train.

Here are a couple of examples of my planning (yes, it should be planned) for these sessions so far:

Word Workshop STAR [simmering]

Word Workshop STAR [precise]

NB: It’s worth mentioning that all words have been chosen by me in light of our current topic, and the knowledge that the children will be given ample opportunity to use these words in their speech and writing.

If you’d like any more information about what I’m doing, please don’t hesitate to contact me on here, or over on Twitter. I’m by no means an ‘expert’, nor do I profess to be one. I’m a simple guy who loves words, and is passionate about developing vocabulary in children. I’m always open to feedback, and would love to discuss anything vocabulary-related with you.

NEXT WEEK: a sneak-peek into my kids’ ‘Power of Words’ books so far, and more examples of planning/activities. Oh, and maybe Seesaw.




[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.’

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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:

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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)

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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.