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New Program Helps Speed Up Children's Understanding of Language

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Learning to read provides a foundation for future learning in all areas of study. But reading is more than just sounding out words. Students need to understand what those words mean. And experts say students need to have a working knowledge of 10,000 words.

Now, a new vocabulary program claims to greatly speed up a child's understanding of language. The program is called Mrs Wordsmith. The teaching system uses pictures and short word exercises to improve a student’s performance on tests.

Sofia Fenichell created the system. She worked with researchers from Cambridge University in Britain to develop the list of words.

'We call it the 10,000 word journey and we believe that children can master these words from the age of seven to 17, and then not have to cram. And these words are typically the words they find in the books they read, in newspapers, in adult conversation. We're accelerating their ability to communicate, but also to improve their reading and writing age.'

Each word in the Mrs Wordsmith system of teaching has a child-friendly definition and a picture showing how the word is used.

For example, the word shriveled is defined as 'wrinkled, like hippo skin that's been the in bath too long.' Underneath the definition is a drawing of a very wet, somewhat shrunken hippopotamus.

'The words are illustrated by the same award winning artist that did Madagascar, Hotel Transylvania and all these Hollywood hits, so they want more of it and moms and teachers love it because they know that there's real research backing and data behind it. It's not random.'

There are also exercises to help strengthen the student’s understanding.

Fenichell spoke at a recent education technology show in London. She said the Mrs Wordsmith system has been popular in schools across Britain.

'The teachers are reporting back that the kids love it. They want to do more, they're putting it in their writing, they're learning more words and it's so easy to teach them the vocabulary. Little children are using words like: ‘The brazen attitude of the British in World War Two’, and teachers are writing us and saying they can't believe how much their writing has improved.'

Mrs Wordsmith is now set to expand into schools in other countries, including the United States.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Faith Lapidus reported this story for VOANews.com. Jonathan Evans adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in this Story

brazen – adj. acting or done in a very open and shocking way

cram – v. to prepare for a test by learning a lot of information quickly

kid – n. children

random adj. lacking a plan; unpredictable

illustrate – v. to show or explain with pictures

accelerate v. to speed up

conversation n. a talk involving two or more people

master v. to learn completely

vocabulary – n. a list of words or expressions

foundation – n. a basis; something that provides support for something else

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