‘Use a wide range of explicit and implicit approaches including planning the teaching of vocabulary, modelling and extending children’s language and thinking’
EF Research: Improving Literacy in Key Stage One, published 4th September 2021
As a school, we value the importance of vocabulary by making words a priority in our classrooms. We know that from a young age, children are constantly learning new vocabulary from their surroundings; nevertheless, learning new words is an ongoing infinite process. Research carried out by Becker (1977) shows that poor vocabulary knowledge is the primary cause of academic failure. Moreover, Hart and Risley (1995) highlighted that there is a vocabulary gap of appropriately 30 million words between children of different social classes by the age of just 3 years old. It is therefore essential that we as a school support and encourage children’s development of language by providing them with the opportunity of daily exposure to new vocabulary to ensure they are ready for the next stage of education and to communicate confidently in the world around them.
As a school, we understand that learning new words is a cumulative task and takes place gradually over time (Nagy & Scott, 2000). It is for this reason that there is a sequential vocabulary curriculum in place which defines what needs to be taught in each year group from EYFS to Year 6 to increase children’s breadth and depth of vocabulary.
Vocabulary is separated into Tier 2 words (multiple meaning) and Tier 3 words (subject specific) (Beck et al., 2013) to empower pupils to access a higher level of language with which they can communicate and understand ideas across the curriculum.
Word morphology is also explicitly taught. This allows children to go beyond simply being able to decode and define words, but provides with them with the tools to deconstruct, explain and transfer the origin of words and make connections with known language (Oakhill & Cain, 2014).
How is vocabulary explicitly taught?
>Our daily timetabled vocabulary sessions enable teachers to ‘teach’ both tier 2 and 3 vocabulary. The tier 2 vocabulary is set out in our progressive long-term plan where teachers can clearly see an order of what to teach and when. The tier 3 vocabulary is taken from our wider curriculum long term plan for vocabulary and is taught as a pre-teach or revisit to help to unlock and strengthen their learning in foundation subjects.
Classrooms will be vocabulary rich and will reflect what has been taught by displaying vocabulary and exemplifying it on working walls. Vocabulary that has been taught will be able to be seen in children’s own work.
Read, say, define!
Alongside each word should be a pupil friendly definition and an example of the word placed in the context of a sentence. Words should be taken directly from the ‘Vocabulary Progression Document’.
Apply it and connect it!
Introducing the word meanings with child-friendly explanations is only part of what it takes to help pupils establish an initial understanding of a word. The other part is to ensure that pupils actually deal with the meanings right away. Example activities include:
Which word goes with crook? (accomplice)
Which word goes with “gift to build a new hospital”? (philanthropist)
In each case pupils must explain why they decided on the connection they had made
Pupils are asked to clap in order to indicate how much they would like (not at all, a little bit, a lot) to be described by the target words: frank, impish, vain stern. And, as always why they would feel that way.
Form questions around the target words by asking pupils which they would prefer between alternatives:
Which would you rather anticipate- your birthday or a dentist appointment? Why?
Which would you rather interact with – sharks or polar bears? Why?
Why might you?
How might you?
When might you?
Practice and reinforcement in ways that engage children in thinking about and using the words, over time, are needed. Example activities include:
Review Meanings with Questions
Does delicate mean something small and easily broken or something big and heavy? Which would you probably be more delicate with: a jug made of glass or a jug made of plastic?
Situations and Examples
If a woman bought a fine lacy dress, you could say “It is delicate”. When else might you talk about being delicate? What are some things around your house that are delicate?
Find the Missing Word
Tell children that you will say a sentence that is missing a word and that they have to say one of the new words that fits into the sentence e.g. If you were walking to the edge of a mountain, you would not want to_________?
Tell the children that you will say a word and they are to tell you which of the new words it makes them think of. Which word does breakable make you think of? (delicate) Why did breakable make you think of delicate?
Finish the sentence
I have some sentences that need endings. I’ll start with a sentence and ask you to think of an ending. I’ll show you one for practice. The sentence starts out: “The vase was so delicate that …..” The vase was so delicate that I was afraid to touch it for fear it would break!” Who can think of another way to end that sentence? The vase was so delicate that…..”.
I have some sentences that make sense and some that don’t make sense. You decide – if it makes sense, everybody say “yes”; if it doesn’t make sense, say “no”.
Many flowers are small and delicate (yes)
The trunk of a tree is delicate (no)
Eating a morsel of chocolate might make you want more (yes)
Step 4: Explore the Morphology and Etymology of words
By looking at the structure and origin of words, pupil gain a better understanding of where words come from. Unknown words can then be unwrapped by pupils using their knowledge of root, suffixes, and prefixes. Example activities include:
How do we ensure that new vocabulary is embedded into Long-Term Memory?
Research indicates that we need repeated exposure to any new word- up to 28 times- before becoming fluent in its use. Repeated exposure is the key to success and recapping words taught yesterday, last week, last term will let pupils revise their learning.
Teachers will use the taught vocabulary in both written and oral modelling regularly referring back to words taught days, weeks, months previously.
Vocabulary Wizard’s Jar
Each class has a jar where newly learnt words are placed inside. These are then pulled out occasionally for the class to revise its meaning.
Vocabulary will be visible in classrooms and will be displayed on working walls where most appropriate- they will be identified with a matching colour outline to the display border- making them easy to pull out for children.
Tier 3 Retrieval Document
Retrieval Documents used within wider curriculum teaching contains the ‘tier 3’ vocabulary taught enabling it to be recapped regularly.