In addition to structure and content, the writing composition section of the 7 plus exam is designed to test a candidate's use of interesting vocabulary in their writing. This blog - written by Meredith, a professional school entrance tutor - explains how ‘wow’ words can enhance a piece of writing and sets out five ways to generate them.
‘Wow’ words help to make language adventurous and exciting and can be used in your child’s speech and writing. Using ‘wow’ words in writing can build a better picture in the mind of the reader, grabbing their attention and making them want to read on. Focusing on building your child’s store of ‘wow’ words can deepen their understanding of language as well as develop their written work. This will certainly help them to shine in school entrance exams and by finding, discussing and putting these words in sentences your child can become more familiar and more confident with using them in their stories or in speech.
The following example shows the difference ‘wow’ words can make in writing:
‘One cold day a small boy woke up and got out of bed. He put on his uniform and went to school. He had maths and English and then it was break time. The bell went and he noticed his stomach hurt. He walked the long way to the playground so he didn’t meet the bully.’
‘On a freezing winter’s day, a young boy woke up and dragged himself out of his warm, comfortable bed. He sleepily put on his dull, grey uniform and wandered slowly to the enormous, red brick school. He tried hard to listen through his Maths and English lessons but was dreading break time. Suddenly the screaming bell rang for break and he noticed a strange, aching feeling in his stomach. He nervously meandered the long way to the playground so he didn’t encounter the bully.’
In the second extract the writing was greatly enhanced by adding ‘wow’ words like exciting adjectives, adverbs, feeling words as well as varying sentence openers.
Being able to use ‘wow’ words in speech or writing is like having a thesaurus in your head and having the ability to choose more interesting synonyms. Children are constantly building this internal thesaurus with exposure to new words.
Here are 5 ways to help students generate ‘wow’ words for their writing:
When reading or listening to stories ask your child to write down three to five ‘wow’ words that stand out. They could be great describing words, words used to communicate feeling, smell, sounds, or words used other than ‘said’, ‘went’ or ‘looked’. You can repeat the same exercise when listening to the lyrics of songs or the lines of poetry. All ‘wow’ words should be explained with examples, compared to words with similar meanings and discussed in context.
If they do not already know, explain what a thesaurus is (a book of words and their synonyms) and that the words are in alphabetical order.
You could give your child the task of finding alternatives to particular words. An online thesaurus also works. Make sure to check to ensure they are choosing suitable synonyms!
Word games (think Articulate, Scrabble, Bananagrams, crossword puzzles etc.) are a fantastically fun way to familiarise your child with new and exciting vocabulary and to help them delve into their internal thesaurus to see what they already know.
Using the exercises above, or through other methods, get your child to write down any ‘wow’ words they come across on a large sheet of paper. You could divide the paper (or have many sheets) into different sections for adjectives, verbs, sentence openers, feeling words, travelling words, other words for ‘said’, ‘looked’, ‘went’ etc. Ensure the word walls/ banks can be easily viewed when writing (or, even better, all the time!)
You could use the first draft of your child’s writing to discuss ways it could be improved. This gives your child a first-hand experience of improving their own writing with ‘wow’ words and seeing the difference they make. Get them to read aloud the before and after and notice the improvement.
Using ‘wow” words in creative writing can really make a student stand out, and is an important step in 7 Plus and 8 Plus preparation. Happy ‘wow’ word-searching!