The Babbulary

The Babbulary explores words, their rhythms and their roots. It’s a workshop, either for teachers or pupils, and also a freestanding resource.

The Babbulary workshop uses sound effects, noise, nonsense, improvised drama, experimentation and so on.

There are a variety of workshops, for teachers and younger and older primaray aged pupils. Youngest pupils investigate syllables and word rhythms through onomatopoeia, older pupils foucs more on word families and word roots. The teachers’ workshop whizzes through a variety of evidence about how children learn and offers some practical examples.

For more information, contact me here.

“A thoroughly engaging, informative, funny, interesting and unique way of teaching vocabulary which naturally leads to participation from all – even the more reluctant learners!” Saira Afzal, teacher, Gilmerton Primary, Edinburgh.

“The workshops provided children with a unique opportunity to play and interact with words, and to discover the hidden rhythms and roots.  Fun, engaging and educational; you can’t get better than that!” Heather Cooper, teacher, St Thomas Cantilupe School, Hereford.

“100/100, very good!” Isa, 6, St Thomas Cantilupe School, Hereford.

“Best workshop ever!” Cassie, 9, St Thomas Cantilupe School, Hereford.

“It was amazing. I laughed until my sides ached.” Grace, 10, St Thomas Cantilupe School, Hereford.

“It was really, really fantastic!” Zoe, 7, Trinity Primary School, Edinburgh.

“Andrew Strong taught the pupils through a workshop experience that they won’t forget. Pupils were engaged throughout due to his charismatic, humorous personality and the wacky sounds he created with their participation.” Miss Campbell, P3 teacher, Trinity Primary School, Edinburgh

 Why The Babbulary?

How did you learn to read? Can you remember? My gut feeling is that most of us who read well will not remember struggling to translate text into sound, or to make sense of letters, words and sentences.

But for children who do, the dyslexics, learning to read will be such an achievement that the successes and failures, the praise, and perhaps the occasional thoughtless rebuke, will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

I’ve worked with dyslexics for many years. I’ve sought to understand what causes dyslexia, and how to overcome it. Dyslexics often seem to be a personality type – they are restless, intelligent, curious but often very demoralised. Dyslexics have a mountain to climb.

And yet governments in the UK are becoming so prescriptive about how teachers should teach there is a distinct danger something obvious will be overlooked.

Usha Goswami, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at Cambridge University thinks that dyslexia is not a visual difficulty, but an aural one. Children who are dyslexic, for example, often cannot hear stresses in words. They don’t hear rhythm in speech as well as those of us who have never experienced reading as a challenge. Neurons responsible for replicating rhythm, and for developing rhythm in speech, and therefore for following metre and syllable patterns in words, must be kick started at an early age otherwise they will not trigger at all.

It is very likely, she says, that there is a genetic disposition towards a child’s brain not being receptive to patterns such as these, but there is also a large element of nurture.

I wrote to Professor Goswami, and she very kindly sent me some of her research papers. She suggests that young children who have difficulty keeping a steady rhythmic beat are more likely to be dyslexic, and that early intervention, with music, dance and rhythm in rhyme, could help the infant brain to prepare itself for reading.

Which suggests that music could have a vital, pragmatic role in children’s learning.

And so I came to develop The Babbulary which, at its heart, attempts to fuse music and vocabulary, exploring language through rhythms and melody, puns and playfulness. The Babbulary is aimed not just at dyslexics, however, but at all pupils.

My aim is that The Babbulary explores sophisticated and simple language, challenging the most able and gently coaxing those who struggle with the written or spoken word into reawakening a sense of the music of words.