Welcome to Word Thoughts

The Growing Words team thinks about words.  A lot.    

Why?  What's so great about words?

In this blog, we'll try to share what we know about words and language and reading.   We'll give you updates about the project, point you to new and exciting research, and give practical tips for helping to build language and reading skills in your children.

We'd love to hear from you: if you're part of our Growing Words project, and there's something you are curious about, let us know!  If you're a colleague, send us your thoughts (particularly if you disagree).  Please be in touch!

Growing Words Team

Bob McMurray, Ph.D.
Principle Investigator, The Growing Words Project
Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences, The University of Iowa

Growing Language at Home for Elementary Students (3/30/20)

As we are all practicing social distancing to help slow the growth of COVID-19, many of us are facing the challenge of working from home while also caring for our children. The safety and health of our community are of utmost importance during these days.  With children home from school, we all want to keep our kids engaged and stimulated so they’re ready for school when it starts up again. 

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Why the Growing Words Project is important to me as a former teacher (10/21/19)

My name is Alexandra (Alex) Fell and I am a staff research assistant on the Growing Words Project. This job might seem like a big left turn for me; I was a kindergarten teacher (with one year of first grade!) for ten years before this. In actuality this position makes perfect sense for a former educator.

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What happens during eye-tracking? (10/14/19)

When we listen to spoken language, we have to rapidly recognize words as they arrive one after another. This rapid timing of spoken language creates a challenge for listeners, but perhaps an even more difficult problem for scientists studying how listeners recognize words as they hear them. It’s easy to measure what people recognize at the end of a word – we can ask them to repeat the word that they heard, or have them choose a picture that matches the word – but this doesn’t tell us how they recognized that word as it was being heard.

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Words: Knowledge or Skill? (9/29/19)


We talk about words as if they're something a child knows. Do they know what a FLAMINGO is? Do they know all their colors? Do they know how to spell COUSIN? Or how to say SERENDIPITY? Do they know the past tense of GO?

These are important things to learn. And kids have to learn all this stuff for thousands of words.

But is that the whole story?

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