It is widely acknowledged today throughout our society that children must build a strong foundation of language and literacy skills at an early age if they are to prosper in school and beyond. Scientifically-based research has validated this general understanding and government initiatives have placed this need at the forefront of our educational mandate.
While there is no substitute for the conversations a child has with an adult such as a parent or teacher, television does afford opportunities to enhance overall language and specific vocabulary skills beyond what can be attained through personal interactions. Through conscious and creative programming, the time children spend watching television, rather than detracting from their language and literacy growth can alternatively be a medium for advancing these capabilities. What television offers is the possibility of carefully controlling the input to the child in a medium that children have access to and interest in. By drawing upon scientifically-based research to design that input, substantial learning possibilities are created. In terms of building toward key aspects of language and vocabulary development, television programming can offer these important opportunities. Television can be a powerful tool for engendering the enduring love of language and words necessary for children’s deep vocabulary acquisition and overall literacy success.
Toward this end, the Emmy Award-winning series WordGirl will premiere five new episodes on PBS KIDS starting March 11 as part of “(M)Arch Enemy Week,” during which WordGirl will fight against a variety of the series’ most popular – and fan favorite – villains. WordGirl’s adventures that week will include battles for word domination against such formidable villains as Big Left Hand Guy, InvisiBill, Granny May, Dr. Two Brains, and many others. Now in its fifth season on PBS KIDS (check local listings), WordGirl breaks through the stereotypes of girls in media by putting forth a female character that is strong and independent. Becky Botsford is an ordinary girl but when trouble strikes, she transforms into the super-powered (and super-eloquent) superhero WordGirl! WordGirl is a hero because she faces her issues, finds a way to rise above challenges and teaches vocabulary to kids in a fun, engaging way.
“Every day, WordGirl shows young viewers that being smart is powerful,” says Scholastic Media President Deborah Forte, “WordGirl resonates with children and parents because of its humor, engaging characters and a relevant and robust curriculum.”
These lesson plans engage students in the exploration and creative use of vocabulary words. Students learn about key concepts such as verbs, synonyms, antonyms, onomatopoeia, the use of persona and visual imagery, all while expressing themselves creatively through gaming, acting, and writing. The following three goals serve as a model for harnessing the educational opportunities a program such as WordGirl offers.
- To engage children in a language-filled world that will provide a meaningful context and rich experiences to help build children’s deep word knowledge and engender a lifelong enthusiasm for language.
- Direct instruction of important targeted vocabulary words presented in multiple and interesting contexts in order to build children’s deep word knowledge and overall vocabulary interest.
- To provide role-models for children illustrating the power of words within a rewarding social/emotional and cultural context that includes positive character models from groups underrepresented or negatively stereotyped in the mainstream media, promoting the value of our diverse society.
That is why I use WordGirl to help my students learn to read.