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Word Stimulation: Definition, Examples and Benefits

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Ann is a retired teacher of literacy and EFL (English as a foreign language) to multi-national and dyslexic students, having a DipSpLD.

Read on to learn all about what word stimulation is and why it's important! You'll also find some helpful examples.

Read on to learn all about what word stimulation is and why it's important! You'll also find some helpful examples.

Words Are Power

This article was inspired by something Eric Dierker, a fellow online writer, asked me about a while ago, to help a friend who had dementia. I formulated it for a specific purpose and passed it on. I came back to the file the other day and decided to develop it for general advice and as a teaching aid. So thank you Eric for the inspiration!

Gamz SWAP cards is a phonics game for children meant to aid the development of spelling, reading and writing. The game is particularly helpful for dyslexics.

Gamz SWAP cards is a phonics game for children meant to aid the development of spelling, reading and writing. The game is particularly helpful for dyslexics.

What Does 'Word Stimulation' Mean?

It’s not always easy to find appropriate words for conversation, description, expansion of vocabulary, so that we can improve ourselves’ or others’ life skills, memory skills, social skills, self-confidence and education.

To help learn words, or retrieve words from our memory, we need to use a form of stimulus which enforces learning and aids recall, sometimes known as ‘overlearning’. Learning new words comes from matching words with visual images (concrete or in our imagination). Practising that is 'overlearning', preferably using a different sense, such as auditory added to the visual.

If you want to help someone who has difficulty with words, or difficulty using them to interact with others, then focus on his or her strengths and interests.

'Planning a Garden' Example

To begin with, we’ll choose a word which corresponds to an interest of someone.

We’ll look at George who likes gardening. Start with a discussion about planning a new garden and the types of flowers, shrubs, possibly trees that he prefers.

The first flower is rose.

  • Ask George to (or you can) write that single word in his favourite colour of rose, in lower case and alone on a piece of card, as above.
  • Then go on to other flowers and shrubs which might be his favourites, repeating the same procedure.
  • George can create a template of a garden, with borders.
  • Print it out so that it can be used kinaesthetically (manipulated by hand) and print pictures of the flowers. This multi-sensory use increases memory skills, helps with making choices, comparing and discussing ideas and more.
  • George can use these to ‘plan’ a garden, using the template with enough space to place the flowers, trees, fruit bushes and so on, where he wants. The garden can be expanded in whatever way is applicable.

You are encouraging hand-eye coordination, memory, automatic recognition of words, clear planning and independent choices. All of this can be expanded within any chosen theme, such as a kitchen, cookery, painting; the choice depends on the individual.

Have a conversation with George regarding the plan, how it looks, alternative positions for the flowers, what he likes best; try to make sure the conversation and ideas come mainly from him, just be the ‘guide’, the ‘prompt’ and take it from there.

To be in charge of a conversation promotes self-esteem, giving a sense of worth and allowing recognition of that by someone else.

Obviously, you could adapt this to just about anything.

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Using an Object for Discussion

You can use any interesting objects you have to hand. Choose one, be it wooden or metal or an ornament. This works well in groups as well as with individuals. Use one object for each group.

Put each object where everyone can see it. Let anyone say whatever they observe about this object. Let them pick it up, examine it, to see what they notice. This might take the discussion along the lines you require.

If needed, ask questions such as

  • what is it made of?
  • what is it for?
  • are there any markings on it? What are they for? (decoration, ease of use)
  • what does it feel like?
  • where is it from?
  • how old do you think it is?
  • who would use it?

From this, your students could draw pictures, make a report (written or drawn or both, historical, factual), tell a story or make of it what they, or you, wish.

This Building used to be Here

This Building used to be Here

Using Pictures or Photos

The same can be done with a large picture (famous or otherwise), preferably one with lots of action or detail. Any observations could include fashions, vehicles, animals, landscape, plants, landmarks they might recognise, weather and mood. Again, the outcome could be any form of report or drama or debate. You could add questions such as

  • ‘Who painted this?’ or
  • ‘Who published this?’, and ‘Why?’
  • ‘Where is it?
  • 'What does the architecture tell you?'

The photo above is of a picture of an old building before an earthquake; the empty land behind it is where that building once stood.

Any resultant questions (from student or teacher) will stimulate further discussion. The possibilities are endless!

Stimulation, Hands-on, Focus on the Person

To me, the important thing is the stimulation and the hands-on approach. The words are the stimulation for their own use.

  • What does the spoken word make you see in your mind?
  • What does that word make you feel?
  • What does that word mean / what ‘group’ does it belong to? (e.g. ‘red’ belongs to ‘colour’, ‘carrot’ belongs to vegetable)

Use as many senses as possible as this stimulates even more. Multi-sensory teaching involves these senses: visual, vocal, aural, tactile and olfactory, otherwise referred to as sight, speech, hearing, touch and smell.

You can see the word and see the picture beside it. You can hear the word as you or someone else says it. You can touch the word if you make an outline of it, thereby investigating its own shape. You can even put a smell onto the paper on which the word is written! You can read it when it’s in your long-term memory.

I’ve noticed that if a person has a passion or is particularly interested in a conversation, when people are 1:1 interacting with him/her, then the response is much more lively and often more accurate. Too many people, too many ideas, too much outside interference (e.g. noises) and the concentration will go. With it will go the interest.

It's important to notice the individual student's use of words. Recognition and reward of their command of the language, or their use of a new word, is crucial for confidence. If they're not sure then ask what word seems appropriate for them to use and discuss the best possibilities. That is the way they will learn, they will retain that technique and benefit from it all.

Tactile shape of a word: Two letters on the level, two ascenders, one descender

Tactile shape of a word: Two letters on the level, two ascenders, one descender

Variety of Needs

If there is reading difficultly, making the reading a secondary priority takes away the focus on that problem and so reduces it. I have noticed in drama students that the less confident readers are not so when they are coping with a script which transports them into another being, an alternative character. The reading is not the focus, the character is.

Some individuals might need help in expression. Finding words that fit is the key. Write words on paper (preferably in different colours) and fit the words to pictures or match with the same word in black print. Then ask them to put the word into a sentence. Development through to a paragraph and more would take time and it’s important to progress at the student’s pace.


There are word games available with groups to match up, such as Happy Families. There is a junior version of Scrabble (for more advanced students). Games such as Boggle and Upwords are fun. You could make your own ‘Snap’ games with single words, possibly with different colours (e.g. ‘dog’, ‘cat’, ‘rat’, ‘frog’ etc, in red, blue, green, yellow for each).

Word ladders are fun too but it needs a more advanced student to enjoy the challenge. Students can make their own word ladders for each other to try (but they must be able to do it themselves).

Morph the Words!

Morph the Words!

Word Ladder

We all know these. A simple idea but not always easy to do! Get from the top word to the bottom, changing only one letter at a time.

The answer to the one above would be

  • post
  • most
  • moat
  • moan
  • loan
  • loaf

There may be other possibilities.

Choose any number of words from 3 to 7, depending on the ability of your student. Make sure you know they work!

Use of Word Stimulation

This method is useful for:

  • subject teachers (easily adapted to any subject);
  • teachers of literacy, usually using words with rhyming endings, from a simple ‘-at’ pattern (cat, mat, fat, bat) to more complicated patterns in a progressive manner;
  • parents who want to help their children;
  • anyone who wants to help a friend;
  • groups who need to interact better (or one within that group who finds communication difficult);
  • games with words and meanings.

Above all, make if fun!

New Words

When I come across a new word, I like to note it down, use it where I can and explore its meanings and origins.

I love onomatopoeia like 'scintillating' and 'gunge'.

Do you have any specific words that have grabbed your imagination? Please share them in the comments; I'd love to hear about them.

Do new words fascinate you?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 26, 2020:

Thank you, Anupam Mitu, for your kind comment.


Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on June 25, 2020:

You have shared brilliant ideas dear Ann. Thank you for sharing.

I am also a teacher. Nice reading you here.

Lots of love

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 19, 2020:

Thanks for the visit Peggy! Yes, words are fun. I used to play lots of word games with my sister and parents, especially during the holidays. Lexicon, Scrabble and more. My grandchildren enjoy the SWAP games.

I've come across many new words lately and made up some of my own, usually from typos!


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 19, 2020:

Most new words that I discover come from reading material. I always enjoy learning the meaning of new words. Your ideas of word stimulation with examples are likely to help many people of all ages. Word games can be fun!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 11, 2020:

Denise: I belong to a book club and, apart from our monthly book, I always have a pile of books to read, some of which are re-reads of my favourites. I have kindle for when I'm away or for some of the book club ones as our library isn't open at the moment, but I do prefer having a 'proper' book in my hand. Yes, the word of the day is a good idea, a great way to learn.

You've highlighted some good advice here, thank you.

I made up my own word the other day - it was a typo! I meant to type drizzle but had 'dripzle' instead and decided that was a type of rain between drizzle and proper drops! Fun, eh?!

I appreciate your visit, Denise.


Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 10, 2020:

I read every evening before bed. In that way, I can read 5 or more books a month. I'm often presented with new words. I love my Kindle because all I have to do is highlight the word and I get a definition and a pronunciation. I also signed up for the "word of the day" with the Merriam-Webster website and they send me a word every day to my email. Some are new to me, some old but all are good.



Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 05, 2020:

Thank you Nithya. The word ladder is one of those simple things that you can adapt for different levels of ability. I appreciate you visit. Take care.


Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 04, 2020:

Great ideas and examples for word simulation. I loved the word ladder; it is a clever idea and a fun activity. An interesting and informative article, thank you for sharing. I agree "word" is power.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 03, 2020:

That's great, Flourish! Well done to all of you; making it fun boosts the learning as it doesn't feel like lessons. I bet you had some laughs.

Putting them into the conversation is doubly good as it teaches careful thought and includes the nuances of meaning. I'm impressed!


FlourishAnyway from USA on June 03, 2020:

When my 13 year-old nephew was staying with us earlier in the pandemic we played a lot of vocabulary games then used the new vocabulary words (new to him) in family conversation. It was a lot fun trying to weave them into use.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 02, 2020:

You have such a good approach with your son, Eric; I have seen that already. With such an interest in language, he will always have that advantage and always want more 'input'. Well done to you!

Even those who have problems with literacy can learn the sound and meaning of a word, so still have the vocabulary at their finger tips.

iPads and tablets do have their uses!

Thanks for reading and leaving your valuable input, Eric. I hope you and your family continue to do well in the current climate and beyond, new words and all!


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 02, 2020:

This is really cool stuff. How interesting how the mind works, or doesn't, in vocabulary.

This has been (quarantine) great for our 10 year old's vocabulary. We never talk down and learn new words ourselves so he is really increasing his knowledge. Yes I think words are our basic knowledge platform.

And nowadays that darned Ipad. Lol. He sounds out the word and searches one at least once a day. How exciting.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 02, 2020:

Hello Mary! Your idea using word/board games in prison is a great one, as well as less internet and television. Although both of those have no doubt increased during lockdown, I think we've had more time to do practical things and learn how to pass our time when we can't rely on instant access to shops, pubs and cinemas. Books (real or digital) are playing a bigger part at the moment - great!

Thanks for your input. Lovely to see you today.


manatita44 from london on June 02, 2020:

Ah ... the roots of language ... great thoughts!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 02, 2020:

manatita: Thank you for your kind comment. Yes, I love playing with words and making them up from time to time is fun.

'ruth' - I suppose we normally only hear its opposite, 'ruthless', then the meaning becomes clear!


Mary Wickison from USA on June 01, 2020:

Very useful advice and techniques. I play Scrabble every day and try to keep alert to new words I hear and see.

When my children were still at home, we would play word association while doing the dishes.

With all the protests and rioting going on, I believe if people played more word games in the home instead of relying on the internet or television their minds would be open to understanding and we'd have more free thinkers. Just this morning I was pondering the use of board games as part of prison rehabilitation.

manatita44 from london on June 01, 2020:

Thoughtful and effective approach and should be quite useful for teachers. I play with words all the time and I love to create like a Dickinson or Shakespeare.

The first time I hear the word 'ruth' used in a rhyming poem though, it puzzled me. That was about 25 years ago. What do you think it means? Well, it means 'compassion' and the poet had made very good use of the word. Lovely Hub. Wonderful use of words and pictures.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 01, 2020:

Thank you, Dora, for your kind comment. That's great; I'm glad I've inspired you to make a list of interesting new words. It's good to delve into if you want something more specific now and then.

I appreciate your visit, as always. Have a great week!


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 01, 2020:

Ann, I have great admiration for your work. I can see how your methods are well organized for effectiveness. From today, I imitate you in listing interesting new words that I find. Thank you.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 01, 2020:

Thank you Liz. Basically, I've found that anything that works well with dyslexics is going to work well with any other students, young or old. I've taught across the board; fun and differentiated activities works for anyone!

Thank you for your kind words.


Liz Westwood from UK on June 01, 2020:

This is a fascinating article. I was brought up with Junior Scrabble and graduated to Scrabble. I always encouraged our children to play word games. But your article has offered a much broader approach, which is excellent.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 01, 2020:

Thanks Lorna. They do say that photos of a person's close history are useful for stimulation of memory and reaction. Also music is a huge catalyst and even gets some moving when they find that difficult. They say that hearing is the last thing to go.

I love 'absquatulate'! Best word I've come across for ages!

Thanks for your input, Lorna.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 01, 2020:

That's a large family, Shauna. Always hard when age and/or illness comes a-knocking. I hope you all have plenty of time left yet.



Lorna Lamon on May 31, 2020:

I remember when my Dad was first diagnosed with Dementia we used post-it notes as reminders. However, as his illness progressed we found different ways to stimulate his mind. We had a lot of success with photos both old and new, and also certain tunes.

Words have always fascinated me and this one made me laugh - absquatulate - apparently it means to leave abruptly. An enjoyable and interesting read Ann.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 31, 2020:

Ann, my mom is one of 10. Five boys and five girls. Mom is the next to youngest. Sadly, only she and one sister are still hanging in. My aunt isn't in good health and I know that scares the daylights out of my mom. She'll be the last one left standing. So far, I've been spared of loss like that. I'm the oldest of three. I don't know how I'll deal with loss if it comes in my lifetime. I pray for my family when loss comes knocking on our doors.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 31, 2020:

How lovely! I had two wonderful parents too, sadly long gone now but they both left me with cherished memories and lots of valuable advice and inspiration. Just me and my sister now and we are very close, thankfully.


Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 31, 2020:

Ann, they still do. Dad just turned 82 and Mom will be 82 June 19th. They're very healthy, active, and young. To look at them you'd never think they were older than 70. I'm blessed. They're a true inspiration.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 31, 2020:

Great story; good for them! Thanks for sharing that about your parents. They had an admirable approach to life.


Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 31, 2020:

No, Ann. He was a stocks and bonds broker before he retired. He and my mom were both poor growing up. When they married, they vowed they would never be poor again and would do everything in their power to elevate and educate themselves.

And they did!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 31, 2020:

By the way, Shauna, I love your Dad's approach to learning words, using cards - perfect! And you enjoyed it because you could show others your knowledge. Juxtaposition is a great word!

Was he a teacher?


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 31, 2020:

Thank you, Pamela! I'm thrilled with your compliment. I am passionate about words and literacy so I guess that's what comes through. My dyslexic students were delightful and so eager to learn that they made it easy. I owe a lot to them; indeed they taught me a lot too.

I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Have a good week!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 31, 2020:

Thank you so much, bill. Yes, if we writers don't stimulate our audience then we might as well give up now! I nearly included something about making up words but decided it was a step too far for this hub. My dyslexic students used to do that a lot without trying and I steered that round to a positive to show them it wasn't a problem, indeed some of the words were great and often onomatopoeic.

I so appreciate your valuable support, bill.

Enjoy your Sunday too!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 31, 2020:

Thank you Shauna; what a lovely comment! I do miss teaching a little but I don't have such energy for it these days! I used to help individuals now and then, privately, and I still make sure the last one is coping well - and she is!

Words are so fascinating, aren't they? Your input is great and it's so good to help others. Your last comment made me happy too. Thank you.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 31, 2020:

Thank you, Rosina, for your enthusiasm and kind comments. It all comes from my days with dyslexics but it applies to anyone which is the beauty of it. Fun and practical is the way to do it!

Good to see you today!


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 31, 2020:

This is such an interesting article, Ann. You must have been a very good teacher and the way you explained things was very good. Your article made so much sense to me and I love to learn new words also.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 31, 2020:

This is such a great article, Ann! I keep repeating "words are stimulating" and a truth could not be more true than that one for a writer. Language allows us to stimulate our readers, and other than the desire to tell a captivating story, that really should be our purpose in writing - to stimulate.

We all have the same number of words to work with, plus the ones we invent as we go, and it is what we do with those words that makes all the difference. It is what separates the mediocre from the outstanding.

Anyway, your article stimulated me, and for that I thank you!

Happy Sunday my friend!


Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 31, 2020:

Fascinating article, Ann! Your passion for teaching comes through clearly in this presentation.

Do you miss teaching?

I wanted to answer the poll, but I find new words in several of the areas you list. Mostly when reading, though.

My mom always looks up a word with which she's not familiar when she reads. I've picked up the habit as well. It widens your vocabulary.

When we were young, our dad would have us learn five new words per night by way of vocabulary cards. The word that stands out from that exercise is juxtaposition. I was so proud that I was the only fifth grader who knew the meaning and could use it in a sentence.

Along the same line, one day my ex-husband and I were sitting on the front porch talking. Suddenly several varieties of birds came together in song. I made a comment about the cacophony of sounds they created. My ex had never heard the word before. Once I gave him the meaning he used it frequently in conversation. It's a good feeling to know you've helped a person grow even if it's done by happenstance.

Great article, Ann! Now I understand how easily you paint a picture with words.

Rosina S Khan on May 31, 2020:

The ways you show word stimulation- learning new words or recalling them from memory later are remarkable. There are many, I am sure, who can help those having difficulty with new words with the help of this article. Double thumbs up, Ann!

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