: Developing Pupils’ use of Scientific Vocabulary in Key Stage 1 Classrooms Considering recommendation 1 of the newly published EEF guidance report.


Developing Pupils’ use of Scientific Vocabulary in Key Stage 1 Classrooms

Considering recommendation 1 of the newly published EEF guidance report.

The release of the EEF’s Improving Primary Science guidance report provides the opportunity to reflect on strategies used to explicitly teach new science words and their meanings across primary classrooms. At Alexandra Park Primary School we have identified the need to review our choice of explicitly taught science vocabulary in our KS1 classrooms. We are also considering if we provide enough opportunities within our curriculum for repeated practice and retrieval of new science vocabulary and definitions over time.

Recommendation 1 from the report states that teachers and school leaders should identify science-specific vocabulary. Supporting pupils to develop their scientific vocabulary helps them to actively participate in their science learning and to effectively communicate their understanding.


We started by considering this discussion tool from the additional tools area of the EEF website. We found this really helped start our professional discussions and reflections. The questions provided enabled us to reflect on our current practice.

Orange summary

Our model of explicitly teaching new vocabulary across the curriculum has developed over time. It is based on carefully planned opportunities that are curriculum-focused and include many purposeful ways in which children use their developing dialogic skills and interactions to experience and practice using new vocabulary. We considered the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit which highlights that the security of the evidence around oral language interventions is rated as high with an average high impact of 6 months additional progress for primary school pupils. Where language approaches have included explicitly practicing subject specific vocabulary (particularly in maths and science) there have been found to have positive effects.

As is clear from the commentary provided within the toolkit, the nature of oral language approaches varies considerably with many appearing to have positive effects. This podcast helped us to understand that current evidence suggests no type of intervention has a monopoly on effects and that the precision of the intervention and quality of training for staff are the key to effective interventions. We have also carefully considered how this evidence from younger children could be translated into our KS1 classrooms. This led to us ensuring we prioritised professional development opportunities for our staff to support the implementation of this new approach.

Our teachers ensure that new words are taught explicitly through a daily vocabulary session. Each session includes teaching of the new word and retrieval of previously taught words (organised on a handy spreadsheet that tracks the words selected and when they have been retrieved.) We have designed the sessions so that they are enjoyable for the children and include games and activities to encourage dialogue in the classroom. In addition to this daily session the new vocabulary is also taught in context. In our science lessons children have further opportunities to rehearse and practice the newly acquired vocabulary. Having recently reviewed the implementation of this approach in our KS1 classrooms and within our science curriculum, our teachers have reported a higher rate of retention of key vocabulary and use within the lessons. We will continue to monitor and evaluation this approach with a view to scaling the approach into more classrooms.

Claire Williams

Deputy Headteacher and Research School Director at Alexandra Park Primary School

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