‘Education is the process of preparing us for the big world, and the big world has big words. The more big words I know, the better I will survive in it. Because there are hundreds of thousands of big words in English, I cannot learn them all. But this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to learn some.’
Words, words, words, by David Crystal, p. 124
At St Dennis Primary Academy, we understand the value of a varied vocabulary diet. According to research, this is key to academic success, employability and mental wellbeing and children’s long term life chances are improved by acquiring a broad, rich and deep vocabulary.
Vocabulary and comprehension are two of ‘The Big Five’ which are the interconnected and underlying components of a good reader (The National Reading Panel Report, 2000) and therefore we plan for the explicit teaching of vocabulary to be at the heart of our teaching and curriculum.
We have used our taught curriculum to develop a whole school vocabulary spine which tackles word breadth and is based on the three vocabulary tiers.
Tier 1: These are the most basic words which typically appear in conversations, e.g. warm, cat, girl, swim. Children are exposed to these words a lot, from a very young age, so become familiar with them.
Tier 2: These words are found across a variety of domains, e.g. precede, auspicious, retrospect. As these words are characteristic of written text, and used more rarely in conversation, children are less likely to learn the words independently. Therefore, we aim to teach around 400 Tier 2 words every year through the use of direct instruction.
Tier 3: These words rarely used, and are limited to specific topics and domains, e.g. photosynthesis in science. These words are best learnt when a specific need arises and are planned for in all subject areas.
We understand that hearing a word is not enough and that vocabulary ‘is taught and not caught’. Therefore, we carefully plan activities and strategies that include direct instruction to deepen children’s comprehension and do not over rely on independent reading. For this reason, we have prioritised daily Book and Novel Study where we use VIPERS to teach, overlearn and embed key vocabulary. Such sessions, form part of every lesson and vocabulary is cascaded into the wider curriculum to ensure these words are used in different contexts.
In the development of our vocabulary spine, we have also considered word breadth and we drew upon our curriculum vocabulary, development of academic vocabulary, Latin and Greek root words, morphology and etymologically interesting words.
Ways tier three vocabulary is generated
On all classroom displays, vocabulary is presented with definitions alongside
children’s learning, books and artefacts.
Knowledge Organisers include key vocabulary with definitions in a glossary. Specific opportunities are planned to introduce this vocabulary in context of the subject lesson and revisited through the feedback and feedforward stage of subsequent lessons.
Key vocabulary linked to concepts is shared and revisited e.g., monarchy in history and enquiry in science. This is also on medium term plans.
Teachers plan for implicit vocabulary teaching using lesson objectives as a starting point e.g. in science, an objective may be to identify and name a variety of common plants, including wild plants, garden plants and trees that are deciduous and evergreen.
Themes of vocabulary are explored and links are made in subjects where relevant.
Shades of meaning are explored where further detail would clarify or add meaning.
Strategies to infuse rich vocabulary through our curriculum
Our year group vocabulary spines are currently being updated for 2022-23. Watch this space!