Andrea Littlewood

Primary Word Power: Building on vocabulary, helping communication.

Children feel good when they see they are making progress. Understanding, using and adding to their vocabulary can give them a sense of power and help them become more confident communicators. This workshop focuses on activities to engage our young learners in their vocabulary learning, encouraging them to think, reflect, share their knowledge and ultimately enjoy the experience.


Learning vocabulary is like a voyage. A ship has a captain and a crew but the journey may only be successful if the crew work well together, using their strengths and helping each other overcome difficulties. There are enjoyable days followed by storms and unrest when re thinking and negotiating are required. The sails may need adjustment and new directions considered.

The workshop will use the metaphor to help teachers consider their approach to vocabulary learning. We will focus on face to face and online learning and personal experiences teaching young learners.

1 Setting sail: Helping the children to understand the importance of vocabulary (A single word can give a message) Setting up classroom routines: Reflection points: What makes the new word special? Spelling, sounds? Posters, word walls and charts, mystery words, variations on “I spy” Teach your ship’s mascot your words)

2 Assigning roles: captains and crews. The value of group work to understand meaning with “smudged texts” I think this word is positive. I think it’s an animal because… (Help with Cambridge reading tasks) Organising captains’ feedback to the class.

3 Full speed ahead: Synonyms, antonyms, prioritising, “Odd one out” Activities to aid memory and retrieval. (Clouds and cobwebs: designing your own vocabulary pictures)

4 Captain’s log, crew’s postcards home Taking note of difficulties and providing further practice (using new vocabulary in creative writing slots)

5 Changing direction: Linking vocabulary to tenses and functional language (Question game: eg Orange Did you have an orange for breakfast this morning?” “Can I have an orange?”

Recognising the need for a change in pace: vocabulary and movement, a minute of drama, arts and crafts. Recognising what the children really want (eg my 10year olds wanting to describe lockdown)

7 Casting anchors: Teachers and readjustments for future learning.


Andrea Littlewood has been teaching since 1985. She is involved in the Young Learners teacher training courses at International House Madrid where she works as a school Coordinator and is a speaker at ELT conferences. Andrea is co - author of the primary course books Twister 1 and 2. She’s particularly interested in vocabulary learning and the importance of motivation.