Research School Network: BLOG: The Year of Literacy Through a Primary Science Lens How can we explicitly embed the teaching of key vocabulary and disciplinary literacy in primary science


BLOG: The Year of Literacy Through a Primary Science Lens

How can we explicitly embed the teaching of key vocabulary and disciplinary literacy in primary science

by Derby Research School
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Katie Pattinson

Deputy Director of Institute, Academy Transformation Trust

Read more aboutKatie Pattinson
Holly Randall-Williams

Holly Randall-Williams

Primary Science Community Lead – Academy Transformation Trust

Read more aboutHolly Randall-Williams

The new primary science guidance report provides six practical recommendations, underpinned by high quality evidence, about how to make meaningful improvements to primary science teaching.

It is designed to help practitioners build on their existing expertise with a view to supporting them to close the attainment gap and cultivate positive pupil attitudes towards science.

Katie Pattinson Deputy Director of Institute and Holly Randall-Williams, Primary Science Community Lead share how the Improving Primary Science guidance report is influencing practice at Academy Transformation Trust.

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Primary Science Recommendations

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One of our key areas of focus for all Academy Transformation Trust schools this academic year is The Year of Literacy.’ All colleagues are exploring how we can explicitly embed the teaching of key vocabulary and disciplinary literacy across all subjects and phases. The newly released Improving Primary Science EEF Guidance report really supports our thinking in this area and signposts a range of useful recommendations and tools for us to use, particularly when it comes to the teaching and development of scientific vocabulary.

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One of the ways that we continually reflect upon and seek to develop our pedagogy and subject pedagogy is through our ATT Subject Communities. For example, our Primary Science Community has really focused this term on recommendation 6: Strengthen science teaching through effective professional development, as part of an implementation process.


We recognise the importance of firstly identifying our professional learning priorities before implementing anything new. This year all primary science leaders across our Trust have completed monitoring and a subject knowledge audit alongside a face-to-face feedback session with their academy staff. We have gained honest feedback about our shared professional development needs and are in the process of using this data to create an implementation plan for developing staff subject knowledge in primary science. Our Primary Science Community is made up of our primary science leads from across our Trust and we dedicate time to meet because (as the EEF report states) we recognise that Science leads are key drivers in bringing about change in science teaching…”

We place high value on colleague professional development across Academy Transformation Trust and as such we are keen to utilise a wide range of expertise to benefit our colleagues and our pupils. We already use a variety of rigorously evaluated’ programmes and we have had initial meetings with the Primary Science Teaching Trust and with STEM learning. We will be using resources from both of these sources to ensure high quality professional development opportunities are created not only for our science leaders, but also for all primary teachers across our trust. The useful advice on strengthening the teaching of primary science through effective professional development, which will certainty help inform future community meetings where we will continue to explore the high quality CPD as a vehicle to continue to engage with effective PD specific to our science leader roles.


Another Improving Primary Science recommendation which is particularly pertinent to the work of the Primary Science Community is recommendation 1: Develop pupils’ scientific vocabulary. We know that Scientific vocabulary can often be confusing and abstract, making it difficult for pupils to fully understand and use. Everyday words can suddenly have new meanings when used in a science context…’ and therefore our Primary Science leaders have already been collaborating to explore evidence informed best bets’ to explicitly teach (and retrieve) this vocabulary. We are keen to develop a tiered approach to teaching vocabulary to support teachers in deciding what scientific vocabulary needs to be explicitly taught and when.

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This term we have really focused on identifying and explicitly teaching scientific vocabulary as part of our medium- and long-term curriculum planning through spoken language, reading and writing’ in line with the implementation guidance from the report. As we move forward, we are keen to explore the teaching of Tier 1, Polysemous, Tier 2 and Tier 3 words in more detail, perhaps aligning those that we will begin teaching explicitly to one year group to begin with.

The guidance report reminds us that we must ensure that our pupils are not only learning the vocabulary but that they can use it accurately and understand it well enough to apply it in different contexts’ which is why our staggered approach to implementation will allow us to pool our shared expertise and strategies as a community, benefitting all our science teachers.

In line with our ATT: Year of Literacy’ focus we are keen to explore how we can maximise the use of the scientific vocabulary not only in writing but through high quality classroom dialogue.

In addition to the Improving Primary Science report itself, we are also planning to extensively use the Reflecting on practice, planning next steps’ tool as an opportunity to return to our key priorities throughout terms two and three, allowing us to continually monitor, reflect and evaluate our progress against the six recommendations.


If you are wanting to know more about Improving Primary Science, why not watch Tammy Elward our Director of Derby Research School, walk through the recommendations and shares suggestions on how to disseminate within your own teams.

An Introduction to the EEF Improving Primary

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