Words, Words, Words – The Important role of Vocabulary

My latest passion is vocabulary. It really is the key to improving the quality of our students’ writing and their ability to highlight all they know. Academic English is all about knowing the correct metalanguage, using the technical terms rather than the everyday word. The right vocabulary allows you to show your expertise and increase the power of what you say. This is why it is a key aspect of the NSW K-10 Literacy Continuum but, unfortunately, it is one that many are leaving until later. Teachers are saying that they will get to it after they get a handle on Writing and Comprehension aspects. However, a major key to building their writing and comprehension skills is their vocabulary knowledge!

There are so many great sites and tools around to help students (and teachers) build their love of words and hence build their vocabulary. My recent presentation at the Coffs Harbour Teach Meet highlighted some of them (see below).

Just remember, spelling lists are NOT vocabulary! Kids will learn them for the test then dump them. To become part of their working vocabulary the words need to be taught, and more importantly, used in CONTEXT.  

Research suggests that a word has to be used at least 20 times before it becomes part of our vocabulary – how can you ensure that the key terms are used 20 times???

It has to be meaningful and valued if it is to become part of their vocabulary knowledge so make vocabulary part of all your marking rubrics too!

Please feel free to share how you are building your students’ vocabulary.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/pmadi/words-words-words-24158942&#8243; title=”Words, words, words” target=”_blank”>Words, words, words</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/pmadi&#8221; target=”_blank”>Paula Madigan</a></strong> </div>



Spelling Games, Activities and Strategies

Spelling is a key component in any Literacy Program and is, as you know, one of the strands of Literacy tested via NAPLAN. We all have our tried and true methods of teaching spelling in our classrooms – weekly spelling lists, look cover write, etc. But what else is out there? How can I use technology to support and consolidate a student’s skills in spelling? Are there any other spelling strategies I could use that would support what I am already doing?

With that in mind, please have a look at the resources below. Maybe you know of all of these and maybe you already use some of these in your classsroom…but maybe you don’t and it is certainly hard to find time to spend hours to search the internet and other places for inspiration.

KidsSpell.com – free games using their lists or yours. Graded and unblocked by DEC


SpellingCity.com – different levels of membership but the basic, and free, level allows you to create your own lists which are then used for a whole variety of games. Great for all ages and again unblocked by the DEC.



  Spelling Connections – this is another great, free and unblocked site, where teachers can create class accounts  quickly and easily. The thing I like about this site is that the games and activities also involve sentence work and even proof reading. This is well worth checking out.


Woodlands Literacy Zone – an amazing variety of spelling, phonics, and quizzes for all grades and abilities. Many a great to use with an IWB. Again, completed unblocked for student use.

PBS Kids – PBS create some amazing resources for students and this is no exception, especially for lower to middle primary. Again, completely unblocked.



BBC Spellits – If you haven’t checked out the BBC education sites, this is a good place to start. Graded activities and visually appealing. Once again, unblocked.


Study Ladder – an Australian site that has excellent resources in a range of areas, including spelling of course. You need to login but is free to join and again it is unblocked. This site is definitely worth a visit.

Spelling strategies:

21 Interesting Ways to Support Spelling in the Classroom

Tasmanian Dept of Ed

Spelling Ideas

I Love that Teaching Idea

Williamstown PS, Victoria

PLEASE make a comment if you found any of these useful or if you have other sites, ideas and resources that you are having success with in the classroom.

Making your own digital stories

Students (and teachers) love making up and sharing stories especially when technology is involved. There are so many amazing web-based tools out there to use to create your own digital story.

There is a great sense of satisfaction involved when you see the story play on the screen and many of the sites allow you to share what you have created so what a delight for any parent to see an invite to come and read, and watch, their child’s story. Plus, what a great way to encourage students in the class to read when they get to read each other’s stories!

Can’t find a book that support what you are doing in the classroom? Make your own! Or put a poem or ryhme into a story form to share with your students.

I have tried all of the sites I have listed below and really found them easy to use and they are all free! Well, unless you want a hard copy of your masterpiece.

I recommend you have a look at:

  Storybird – lovely art work to use, or upload your own. Lots of stories to share with your students.

  Storyjumper – much like storybird and step by step instructions

  Myths and Legends – British site that has stories based on the many myths and legends from  the British Isles to share as well as a space to create your own.

  Little Bird Tales – currently only approved for teachers but any books you create can be used at school on your IWB

  Zooburst – a fun site that allows you to create amazing 3D books.

National Year of Reading

Did you know that 2012 is the National Year of Reading? What a great focus for the school year! Reading skills are so important and impact on all other aspects of literacy plus the love of reading continues to enrich our lives well after we leave school. How are you going to celebrate the National Year of Reading with your students?

There are already some great ideas out there on how to use this focus in the classroom which I have links to here. I would also LOVE to hear your ideas, too.

The official site

The Daily Cafe – Check out the Daily 5!

Reading is Fundamental

Storytime Online – great stories read by professional actors

Love Dr Seuss? Then checkout Seusville!

Reading Rockets – nice site with lots of ideas to encourage reluctant readers.

The Book Chook – great ideas for reading and literacy from teacher’s perspective

The Reading Resource – a great site for all things reading – from fluency to comprehension

ReadWorks – very comprehensive site for all facets of learning to read as well as comprehension

The NSW DEC is also right behind the National Year of Reading – Check out this link to see what is being organised. It also has great links to other sites to explore. Warning: This link and the link below might only work if you are logged in to a DEC computer.

Check out all the amazing reading activities on TaLe, such as Online Stories for Interactive Whiteboards. Plus there are lots of links to authors reading from their novels and what a great way to introduce students to books they might like to borrow from the library.

Happy Reading!