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"Start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old, they will not turn from it" Proverbs 22:6

Word Aware

As a school we are developing the way we teach vocabulary by using the strategies and ideas from the ‘Word Aware’ programme. Word Aware is a comprehensive and structured approach that we use throughout the school to promote vocabulary development in all children from Nursery to Year 2.

According to research, children need twelve meaningful encounters of a word before they really know it. Word Aware promotes a method called STAR, which stands for Select, Teach, Activate and Review. Using the STAR method it ensures the children encounter the new words many times and many different ways.

How Word Aware will help your child:

Word Aware allows us, to teach all pupils how to understand the relationship between words, how to understand the meaning of the words, and how to develop their understanding of, and ability to use, the language. Pupils will be taught how to work out and clarify the meanings of unknown words and words with more than one meaning.

The Star method:


The teacher will carefully pick new words each week that relate to the children’s learning. These will be really beneficial words which are likely to be encountered again in spoken language or reading.


Teaching covers phonological sound, syntactic grammar and semantic meaning. In other words, we will be teaching the sound and initial letters of the word; what word class it is (for example, a noun, adjective, adverb, verb) including how the word is structured in a sentence; and what the word means. Children in Years 1 and 2 will have access to dictionaries to look up the word, they will consider synonyms and will create their own sentences with the word to consolidate meaning. Other activities used include: word raps, acting out the word, discussing prefixes and suffixes, symbols or pictures, spelling of the word, syllables, rhyme, physically experiencing the word (if this is possible), links to what the children already know and identifying related situations that the word does not apply to. Each class will have their own display, which will have the words being taught on it, alongside pictures to help them to know what the words mean.


The teacher will then ask appropriate questions to discover and activate the meaning of the word. Example questions are shown below:


Once a word is taught, it is placed on a word wall in the classroom. These words then reviewed by the class in both their writing and their spoken language. Also, we play games to consolidate our understanding of these words and each week the words will be placed in the newsletter to allow you to discuss and review these words with your child at home.


At St John’s, we understand how important words are in all subjects at school as well in life. To progress with reading, writing and all the other subjects, children need a wide and varied use of words to understand. At the school, we believe that speaking and listening are foundation skills for reading and writing.

Word Aware At Home:

Find it – Before or after reading a book with your child find words they might not understand, write them down and ask them to find where they are in the book. Can they then use the clues and their reading skills to work out what it means? They could use a dictionary to find the meaning or look in a thesaurus to find words with similar meanings, if there is one available.

Splat it – Have some words on individual cards or Post-its. Read a definition of a selected word and your child can say which one you are reading about by either hitting it with a fly swat or by throwing beanbags or a pair of bunched up socks.

Go on a Hunt –When you are out and about, look for things you could describe by a particular word like smooth or rough. Categories such as living things, things with bars, things with lights.

The Senses –What can they hear? What can they feel? What can the see? What can they taste? Ask your child to describe it to you, try to encourage them to use more ambitious words, rather than nice or bad, such as rough or sweet.

Word of the day or week – as a family see how many times you can use your word in a meaningful way during the week/day. Remember to try and use these new words in your conversations to help them enter into your child’s vocabulary

St. John's Infant and Nursery School

Gills Hill Lane, Radlett, WD7 8DD

Tel: 01923 856594