Research School Network: Vital Vocabulary: putting research evidence to work How evidence from the EEF helped to develop the teaching of vocabulary across the school


Vital Vocabulary: putting research evidence to work

How evidence from the EEF helped to develop the teaching of vocabulary across the school

by Research Schools Network
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Charlotte Caldwell, ELE and part of the English Development Team at Front Lawn Primary Academy, reflects on how using the evidence from the EEF helped develop the teaching of vocabulary across the school.

Navigating your way through a sea of evidence can be a daunting task, but it can reap real rewards for our pupils – helping us to make meaningful improvements to teaching and learning.

But, when considering evidence, it is important to get beneath the surface of it; to focus on the how’ as well as the what’. Asking questions such as, do the principles that underpin this approach – and made it effective in other settings – mean it could be impactful in mine?

Before deciding on a strategy to improve vocabulary teaching across our primary school, we made sure to read widely.

Throughout this exploration phase, it was important to keep questioning and critically assessing the research. We were careful to safeguard against cherrypicking” evidence that confirmed our preconceived ideas about what best practice might look like, interrogating sources thoroughly to make sure we identified the best way forward.

Reviewing the research evidence and refining our plan

After reviewing the EEFs Teaching and Learning Toolkit and Improving Literacy guidance reports, we came to wonder whether our children were exposed to a variety of rich language regularly enough, and if our vocabulary teaching was explicit and consistent.

As educators we are aware that while pupils may be able to decode words accurately, they can only fully understand these words if:

  • they are already in their vocabulary,
  • they have had repeated exposure to them,
  • they have been taught how to use them in new and varied contexts.

With this in mind, we created an implementation plan that would support and guide us in improving the teaching of vocabulary across the whole primary phase. As a team, (members of SLT and lead teachers from each phase) we decided that we needed to put in place a more structured way of introducing new vocabulary, and ensure that this was applied consistently across the whole school.

We decided to start with identifying tier 2 vocabulary, and plotting out the sequencing of when it ought to be taught. Then, we developed a consistent script for how it ought to be introduced.

We monitored our progress by looking at how children’s vocabulary developed – the range of words they were able to use verbally and in their writing – across a range of different age groups. An unforeseen consequence of the teacher’s increased focus on vocabulary emerged.

New pic 1

Here, the child has used all the new vocabulary they have learnt but not in a considered way; making the piece of writing less successful. As a result, we had to go back and revisit how to ensure every new word learnt, earned its place.

Teacher professional development

We planned a six-week professional development cycle that developed teachers’ subject knowledge and focused on teachers modelling high quality classroom talk through critically appraising shared writes. The children could then make more considered choices about the vocabulary they were using.

New pic 2

Research evidence use helped us refine our approach to vocabulary teaching, ensuring we were making best decisions building on work from thousands of classrooms before us.

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