20,000 children wrote about their experience during lockdown. Here’s what we learned.

Thank you to Shane Hill (Storyathon) for contributing to this article.

Data from Oxford University Press in partnership with Storyathon, the largest story-writing event in Australia, reveals the impact COVID-19 has had on children’s vocabulary in Term 2 with students responding to the theme: ‘A Different World – Living in lockdown’.

Words used in students’ stories

A breakdown of the 5,653,404 words submitted to Storyathon shows a surprising increase in the usage of collective nouns in students’ writing. The word ‘we’ which last year was ranked as the 19th most used word, has skyrocketed to the number one spot, a 129% increase on the previous year. The words ‘virus’ and ‘zombies’ appeared frequently in students stories. Other words that were used include:

·         Friends – used 6 times more often

·         Family – used 4 times more often

·         Virus – used 7,000 times more often

·         Boring – used 20 times more often

·         Zoom – used 25 times more often

·         Isolation – not previously used

·         Restrictions – not previously used

·         Sanitizser – not previously used

·         Cases – not previously used

·         Baking – used 43 times more often

·         Netflix – used 17 times more often

·         Grandparents – used 9 times more often

·         Bikes – used 21 times more often

·         Zombies – used 48 times more often

·         Government – used 11 times more often

·         Scientists – used 6 times more often

Differences across age groups

Words used more often in years 3 and 4:

·         Brother & sister – younger students are twice as likely to include brothers and sisters in their stories

·         Shops – younger students are twice as likely to include ‘shops’ in their stories

·         Miss – younger students are twice as likely to include ‘miss’ in their stories

·         Zombies – younger students are four times as likely to include ‘zombies’ in their stories

·         Minecraft – younger students are four times more likely to include ‘Minecraft’ in their stories

Words used more often in years 5 and 6:

·         Fortnite – upper primary students are seven times as likely to include ‘Fortnite’ in their stories

·         Sport – upper primary students are four times as likely to include ‘sport’ in their stories

·         Panic – upper primary students are three times as likely to include ‘panic’ in their stories

·         Dying – upper primary students are twice as likely to include ‘dying’ in their stories

Words used more often in years 7 and 8:

·         Essential – lower secondary students are seven times as likely to include mention ‘essential’ in their stories

·         Boredom – lower secondary students are six times as likely to include mention ‘boredom’ in their stories

·         Lonely – lower secondary students are twice as likely to include ‘lonely’ in their stories

·         Deadly – lower secondary students are twice as likely to include ‘deadly’ in their stories

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