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Look it up and things look up

Developing a love of language in general, and words as key building blocks in particular, has always been at the heart of my English teaching. So I have recently tried a contemporary spin on my "Word of the Week" display by constantly adding new words for a range of secondary classes.

"Bloggers", "Asbo" and "Offlish" (the jargon used in offices, a blend of "office" and "English) have all featured under the heading "Newly Minted Words". Taking their inspiration from the term "coining", the posters always include the root of the new word.

By getting the children to consider roots, you are encouraging them to think about spelling and its link to meaning as well as derivation. After a few weeks, the curiosity of children means they look forward to learning this week's word and trying it out on their family at home. A well-chosen word can lead to further exploration. "Wiki", for example, gets them looking up these editable web pages on the internet, particularly Wiktionary and Wikipedia.

Trail next week's word without its definition and you encourage children to try to find out what it means in advance. Once you get this going, the children can do half the work for you.

When The Guardian changed to a new format somewhere between a tabloid and a broadsheet, I asked my Year 9, who were looking at newspapers, to find out what it would be. A "tabsheet"? A "broadloid"? No, it's a "Berliner" apparently after the German paper that already uses this midsize format.

John Gallagher

Head of English, Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls,


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