In primary schools, children are encouraged to use a wide range of adjectives or ‘describing words’ in their written work. This is for a number of reasons:
It increases a child’s vocabulary, and their understanding of new words. They are taught to understand how to spell the words they learn, and also their definitions and the context in which they can be used.
It encourages children not to be frightened of tackling new words which they come across in their reading. If they are learning, writing and using new words every day this becomes a habit, and things which are a habit are ingrained, and consequently unthreatening.
It makes their work more interesting to read both for them and for their audience. When a child is encouraged to produce a sophisticated piece of work which uses a rich variety of expression they naturally become more confident in their writing, their reading and their day to day speech.
It encourages a child to ask about words they don’t understand. Normally, if definitions and use of words are not talked about in the home or school, a child will tend to stick to safe, comfortable words in their work and speech, and will avoid more complex words. They will also ignore more complex words which are used in reading materials or in discussions they are a part of, simply deleting them in their mind. Instead, they try to interpret what they have read or heard by a process of deduction from what they do understand. They do not want to be thought of as stupid, so they simply don’t engage with difficult words or phrases unless they are challenged to do so. If they are encouraged to explore language and its definitions regularly, and they understand that it is alright to do this, and that they are not ‘stupid’ because they do not necessarily understand everything they read or hear, they are much more ready to admit they don’t know something and ask for help.
It introduces children to the idea of subtleties of emotion and expression. It gives them words with which to express things which are not simply ‘black or white’. It allows them to get to grips with the enormity and complexity of the world they are a part of by supplying a rich variety of words that will do justice to that world when they need to express something about it.
In primary schools it has been the practice for some time now to avoid using the word adjective. Instead, particularly in the early years of education, teachers prefer to introduce the children to these ideas and words by using the term ‘Wow!’ words or ‘Power’ words. It is a simple trick that makes the children more receptive to, and excited by what they are about to learn.
It also demonstrates beautifully the power of adjectives to enrich the experience of language. Sitting down to a lesson of exploring Wow! words is much more fun than sitting down to a lesson exploring adjectives, even though they are one and the same thing.
Exploring and using Wow words and Power words is a huge part of the creative writing process in primary schools, and something the children will explore regularly in big write or sparkly writing sessions.