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What are epic words?

Our words are curated from global curriculum lists, and cover all the basics from learning to count, to getting dressed in the morning, to traveling to school. Even though some of these words will be familiar, younger kids need practice learning to read and manipulate them.

But we believe (and research backs us up!) that it’s never too early to start learning a word. Children need vocabulary that inspires them, so we pack our products full of more challenging, abstract words, like sympathetic and reflect, as well as culturally relevant, extra-epic words, like devour, drone, onesie, jet ski, dumplings, and tofu. We also teach words that prepare kids to tackle STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics), which are in the main focus of education globally.

Click here to read the research behind our epic words and how we select them:
We teach epic words

What are storytelling words?

Our storytelling words are designed to help children write brilliant stories, excel at school and in life. The words are divided into six key storytelling building blocks: character, settings, taste and smell, action, emotion, and weather. It was developed with childhood literacy experts and with word selection informed by cutting-edge machine learning.

Click here for examples of our storytelling words:
Storytelling words

Hollywood animation and visual learning

Research shows that when it comes to word learning, visuals increase children’s interest and motivation, fostering engagement and retention. Illustrations also lead to better interpretation and retention of newly acquired content. Animations are particularly effective because the motion directs children’s attention to important details.

The abstractness of adjectives and verbs like sympathetic and influence makes them more difficult to grasp than concrete nouns (like table or apple).

That’s why we turn our challenging words into short character-led animations that really convey the essence of what they mean, ensuring that children will grasp the meaning while also having fun.

Click here to read the research about visual learning:
Visual learning

starburst

Humor

Research shows that learning while having fun is the perfect recipe for memorability. Humor triggers the formation of habits, meaning that children want to play again and again, learning more words every time.

Click here to read the research about learning through humor:
humor

Words taught in topical clusters

We have organized words into topical clusters because psychological research suggests that words which are organized in this way are more easily learned and remembered. Building links between related words and storing them together is compatible with how our brains work.

Organizing words in thematic clusters creates a self-teaching device that supports independent learning, because it helps children organize their knowledge and access it better when they need it.

Click here to read the research behind our epic words and how we select them:
We teach epic words

Pound & sound

Pound and Sound is a fun and educational way to interact with words. Kids tap on groups of letters in words that form syllables or onset-rimes (initial letter-rest of the word), hear how they are pronounced, and put them in the correct order to create words. Active, gamified learning of this kind — involving the senses — is much more effective than passive consumption of information. Breaking down words into sounds and seeing the letters these sounds correspond to develops children’s phonological awareness, which is an important prerequisite for learning how to read.

Click here to read more about Pound and Sound and how Epic Word Adventures complements the school curriculum:
Phonological awareness

Word consciousness

Word consciousness is an awareness of how language works and how to interact with it. It is developed when children are given rich enough information that helps them understand the meaning of words deeply and accurately.

By discovering and interacting with more and more words, kids will come to realize that a sandcastle is a castle made of sand, that the suffix -less in reckless and harmless means without, and that the difference between tired and exhausted is one of degree.

Click here to find out more about word consciousness and how to build it:
Building word consciousness

Gamification

According to research, young children learn best through playing. Gamification promotes problem solving and independent learning, and is particularly beneficial in vocabulary learning because active engagement with words contributes to retainment.

Click here to read more about learning through play:
Gamifying learning

Click here to read more about the game design behind The Epic Word Adventure:
Game design

The power of narratives & character-based learning

Placing the word-learning experience in the context of a gripping narrative is central to what we do. Research studies have reported various specific benefits that narratives have for learning, such as grabbing the learner’s interest and attention, and being great devices for the representation and elaboration of new information.

Research shows that information presented by a character is more likely to be remembered. The benefits are even stronger when the character is particularly relatable. Despite the research evidence, a recent review of existing educational apps for children reports that only 9.9% are character-led.

Click here to read the research behind character-led learning:
Character-led design

Scaffolded learning

We scaffold easier, everyday words alongside more challenging ones. For example, eat may be a familiar word, but it can help children unlock the meaning of devour or gulp. Experts in children’s apps recommend scaffolded combinations of easier and more challenging content as the most effective way to learn. But, amazingly, only 19.3% of existing apps involve any scaffolding.

Spaced repetition

According to research, a child needs several encounters with a word in order to learn it and repeated exposures are most effective when they appear over an extended period of time. Our algorithm ensures that children encounter each word enough times — and with the right amount of time between each encounter — to maximize learning effectiveness.

Click here to read the research into spaced repetition:
Bite-sized & spaced repetition

Learning a few words often is better than cramming

Learning a few words thoroughly and frequently has been shown to work up to 90% better than teaching many units in one go, once in a while. Just like leading a healthy lifestyle, vocabulary is a matter of habit-formation, and the key for success is consistency and perseverance. This is why our Epic Word Adventure is designed to make word learning a daily habit that children enjoy.

Click here to read more about bite-sized learning and spaced repetition:
Bite-sized & spaced repetition

Audio features

We use audio to show children how to pronounce new words. Our learning-to-read print products feature QR codes that link to audio files, so that kids can access the correct pronunciation of the words they are learning to read and spell.

The importance of direct instruction

Kids don’t learn enough words from reading. Research shows that explicit vocabulary instruction yields significantly better results than reading alone. In fact, a study found that left to read by themselves, the average child will spontaneously ‘work out’ the meanings of only 15% of the unfamiliar words they encounter. In a typical 12,000 word children’s book, there will be an average of 240 new words, of which an unsupported child will therefore learn just 36 at the first time of reading. The rest will remain a mystery, limiting the child’s understanding and enjoyment of the story. Such approaches to reading are missed opportunities for extremely productive vocabulary learning.

Click here to read the research on direct instruction:
Direct instruction

Mrs Wordsmith uses machine learning to choose the words (and combinations of words) that are worth learning. To do that, our machine learning experts process corpora — or large collections of written text selected from a wide range of sources — that create a 'balanced' representation of the English language. They then apply a set of criteria to these words, how abstract they are, how frequently they are used, how many different senses a word has, how easy or difficult a word is to spell, or the age at which it is normally acquired. The results of this are then tested against the insights of writers, teachers, and linguists, and fed back in to improve the model of word selection. In this way, our model is continuously improving, and we can ensure we select the best possible words, in the best possible combinations.

Paper and digital materials that complement each other

We created My Epic Life Dictionary and the Epic Word Adventure in parallel, so that their content is aligned. While they can be used independently, using them together reinforces the learning — the use of one complements and enriches the experience of using the other.

The words in My Epic Dictionary and the Epic Word Adventure are largely the same (though not entirely identical), but the style of interaction is different. The book invites kids to discover epic words by browsing its hilariously illustrated pages. The app enriches their experience with these words through audio, animations, games, and rewards. Repetition is absolutely crucial for the retention of new words and there’s no better way to ensure repeated exposure than by children encountering our epic words in both the book and the app.

Click here to read more about using our products side by side:
Paper & digital

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