We have recently finished a project with several Devon schools, run over two terms, exploring the impact of vocabulary instruction on reading and writing.
We found two books in particular provided significant research and ideas:
Lessons learned from our Vocabulary Development project
Common Threads: what teachers did
- found out about pupils’ vocabulary development needs and set clear priorities for improvement.
- carefully chose which words and skills to explicitly teach.
- planned cross-curricular teaching opportunities.
- modelled high standards of vocabulary use and expected this from pupils and other adults involved.
- created a ‘buzz’ about word learning and exploration.
- allocated regular time to vocabulary instruction and valued this (2-minute teasers; daily class story; lesson starters; discrete sessions; Word of the Day/Week).
Focus on the following areas of vocabulary instruction led to encouraging results:
- use of Reciprocal Reading skills – Clarifying, Predicting;
- understanding and choice of tier 2 (and some 3) vocabulary;
- effective dictionary and thesaurus use;
- morphological investigation – prefixes and suffixes;
- exploration of synonyms and antonyms.
Activities reported as successfully in improving vocabulary use incorporated…
- planned talk and guided discussion, encouraging metacognition;
- teacher modelling;
- playful experimentation;
- opportunities to be pupil-led;
- a multi-strategy approach;
- pupil reflection and evaluation.
A number of teachers described strategies they had employed to encourage pupils to take greater ownership of their vocabulary learning.
- Naming word choices on display with the expectation all children will contribute and be able to explain their word to others when asked.
- Maintaining own bookmarks on which to record personal word lists and ideas.
- Using guided reading journals to comment on interesting or unfamiliar vocabulary encountered in texts.
- Modelling and rehearsal of questioning skills so individuals could ask peers about word definitions.
- Reference to personal word mats.
- Pupil-led discussions.
- Assigning competence to individuals thus creating genuine ‘word experts’ for others to go for guidance.
- Changes to marking routines to encourage self- and peer-assessment and subsequent improvement of vocabulary choices.