It is a delight to welcome Andrew, AKA The Vocabulary Ninja, to the Blog today, after the publication of his new book last week, available here.
The book is jam-packed with classroom-ready resources to help promote vocabulary. It has 3 parts: the first the how and the why of being a vocab ninja; the second a toolkit; and the third a sayonara to set you off on the vocab ninja way! I think this book is a great resource for teachers who want to make vocabulary a focus for their classroom and/or whole school, particular those who are early in their teaching career. Look out for the Ninja Reflections and Ninja Notes, throughout the book.
I got the chance to ask the Ninja himself some questions to scratch beneath the ninja disguise!
What’s your most recent word discovery?
Firstly, thanks for wanting to interview me! My most recent word discovery was ‘verbose’, which means something that is expressed in more words than are required. Someone was giving me some personalised feedback on the publication of the book, saying how he was impressed with the succinct nature of the opening – not too wordy. I get the urge to use words like ‘rather’ in conjunction with verbose.
What’s your favourite word ever?
Well, that is a tough question! In terms of how I have seen a word used in such a skilled way by a pupil, it would have to be translucent. A pupil used it to describe the wings of a dragon: it was a real lightbulb moment for me personally and the pupil, as to the impact this word had on the writing, and the deeper meanings it portrayed. She built a vivid image of this dragon, using the words like emaciated and frail. Perfect!
Some current words that are stuck in my head are, loiter and disgraceful. Loiter, because my wife referred to someone in a car as loitering over her shoulder whilst queuing for petrol. So I really liked that word choice. Secondly, my four year old twins seem to quite regularly tell me that a decision that I have made is disgraceful! Disgraceful!
And which 3 words would you happily get rid of?
I’m sure no matter which three I choose, there will be a multitude of readers who avidly disagree! I’m going to choose three that eternally crop up in my pupils writing year on year, that I endeavour to improve over the course of the year. Got, Get and Went. I agree that these words most certainly have a role to play…however in most circumstances there are many for more exact, functional and descriptive words that pupils, as authors, could use. So I’d replace them, not get rid of them. Let’s say I’d get rid of miss-spelt words! 🙂
Do you have a favourite book to teach with and or read aloud?
I really don’t have a favourite book to teach from. I’m somewhat of a convert in the last few years. In the past, I had used books like Friend or Foe and Room 13, learning from more experienced colleagues on how to use a text effectively. I really enjoy using Harry Potter with UKS2 pupils: it has so many applications across the curriculum and within writing. More recently, our school has used CLPE and the Power of Reading to develop writing using high-quality texts, involving lots of drama and role-play during the build up. Some of the books within the scheme have been Arthur and the Golden Rope, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and the brilliant Shackleton’s Journey! I know through Twitter, I’ll never have to look far to find amazing books and recommendations! Especially via Reading Rocks!
Tell us about becoming the Vocabulary Ninja. How did it all begin?
Vocabulary Ninja started quite simply out of a reflection on how one particular year had gone, the results the Y6 pupils achieved, and how things could be improved. Within this period of refection, I decided that vocabulary would become a driving force of everything that happened within the classroom and around the school.
I decided to introduce a word to my class everyday, and because I was doing it anyway, I thought that I would share it. So, I created a blog and Twitter account and shared the word of the day every day for people to use. That’s it. I’m really proud to see where Vocabulary Ninja has developed in the 2 and a half years it has been running. One of the best things about it is the people you get to engage with as a result! It’s amazing! Who knows what will happen in the next 2 and a half years.
I love the way the book has a toolkit full of ideas to use in the classroom. Which is your favourite to use?
I think simple things are the best. My favourite is the word of the day, the original and the best. The beauty of the word of the day is that it has so many applications. The main aim of the word of the day is to widen and deepen a pupil’s vocabulary. By discussing the associated SPaG, word classes and definitions with pupils, then giving them the opportunity to apply. Then revisit, use orally through the day and week, helping pupils see the word in action. It’s a mindset – it’s free. Words are there all around us: as teachers we must make them a priority in our classrooms. If someone was to implement one idea from the book, it would be this.
Further to this. The free Vocab Lab App has been a revelation! Nearly 100K downloads and the feedback that I receive is wonderful! If you haven’t downloaded it for your personal or school iPads yet, then you are missing out!
If you could give just one piece of advice on developing pupils’ vocabulary, what would it be?
Be the role model and display vocabulary effectively. If you are using specific word choices make sure pupils can see refer back to them independently when they need them.
So what’s next for the Vocabulary Ninja?
Well, excitingly, I’m just about at the completion stage of writing 6 very exciting reading comprehension books, one for each year group with Bloomsbury Publishing. The books will focus on developing reading comprehension skills, set within exciting non-fiction texts built around the curriculum of each year group. The idea being that these reading comprehension skills can be embedded within the knowledge of the national curriculum. Perfect for the swing in focus from September towards the curriculum. The resource will certainly improve standards in reading comprehension, with the added bonus of enhancing pupils’ knowledge of the curriculum and its content. Exciting times! The books will hopefully be available from January 2020! So just over 8 months time! Reading really will Rock!
Website – www.vocabularyninja.co.uk
Twitter – @VocabularyNinja