: Unlocking Potential: The Power of Oracy and Vocabulary Development for Students 16 – 19 With ​‘Top Tips’ for teaching vocabulary with students aged 11 – 19

Unlocking Potential: The Power of Oracy and Vocabulary Development for Students 16 – 19

With ​‘Top Tips’ for teaching vocabulary with students aged 11 – 19

In this blog Jane Beswick, Deputy Principal at Bilborough College, explores the college’s strategic pursuit of effective literacy implementation in post-16 teaching. Recognising the crucial role of oracy, vocabulary, and literacy, especially for disadvantaged students (approximately 30% of their students are in receipt of the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund) and following a rigorous quality cycle and data analysis, Jane reached out to Louise Astbury to collaborate on the college’s plan to focus on Literacy in 2023 – 24. Louise exemplifies how strategies were developed with teachers in the Deliver’ phase.

EXPLORE – Identifying the Need for Change

As educators, the continuous review of teaching, learning, and assessment practices is paramount for ensuring students receive the best educational experience. At Bilborough College, our recent annual review revealed no singular Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (TLA) priority. However, a theme emerged — the enhancement of literacy and oracy skills, particularly crucial for our disadvantaged students, an area we recognised was amenable to change’ (EEF Implementation Guidance Report). Anecdotal feedback from teachers included phrases such as students just cannot write these days”, students lack confidence to talk in class, I don’t know what they will do at an interview” resonates with some of the feedback provided by other young people in the APPG Speak for Change’ Report, April 2021.

Following an excellent session at the SFCA Annual Conference Summer 2023 by Louise Astbury on the EEF report Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools,” we recognised the profound impact literacy development can have on all students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

PREPARE – The Intervention Blueprint

Drawing from the EEF Toolkits insights on reading comprehension and oral language strategies , we crafted an intervention plan centred on disciplinary literacy and oracy development. In collaboration with Louise and an Associate Professor from Nottingham University, we devised a simple yet effective strategy. Key elements included clear messaging for staff, INSET training sessions, and fostering staff buy-in through course Quality Improvement Plans (QIPs). The plan aimed to be not just impactful but also feasible and cost-effective.

DELIVER – Implementation into Action

To maintain momentum, we integrated literacy and oracy development into the ongoing course QIP reviews. Staff received initial training during the INSET in September 2023, led by our colleague from Nottingham University. Louise further bolstered our efforts in November 2023, providing practical strategies for diverse subjects, from Maths to Drama to Psychology. Importantly, the strategies covered in the session were practical and simple to apply, allowing our staff to test them out in their lessons. These strategies were evidenced during a subsequent OFSTED inspection a week after the training, earning us praise for the clarity and positive impact of our plan and classroom examples such as Psychology students using Tier 2 vocabulary effectively (Bilborough Ofsted Report, 2023).

SUSTAIN – Assessing Impact and Long-Term Goals

In the short term, our staff will continually assess the impact of their literacy and oracy development goals during each course QIP review. Adjustments and refinements can be made, ensuring flexibility in our approach.

Looking ahead, our long-term goal is to see a gradual improvement in student achievements over several years. As teachers become more adept at fostering literacy and oracy skills and students become more independent in their application of these strategies, we anticipate a positive ripple effect on student outcomes.

By prioritising vocabulary and oracy development, we are investing in the future success and empowerment of our students.

Professional Development Insights – The Journey with Louise Astbury:

Louise sheds light on some of the strategies covered in the staff training session:

Progress through the education system means that texts inevitably become more complex and might be laden with academic vocabulary such as conclude’, participation’, experimental’, contemporaries’, supplements’. When students are grappling with words they don’t know and they don’t have the strategies to figure them out, it hampers their learning.

So this became the focus of our session: A practical approach involving analysing exam papers and reading texts for complex vocabulary, ensuring strategies were modelled for teachers to apply in their subjects.

It felt important that teachers knew how students experience this in lessons when they come across very complex vocabulary, so we put them in their shoes with a very complex geology text but then focused on how, with pre-planning, we could very quickly teach some key vocabulary, breaking vocabulary down into root words, prefixes and suffixes as well as considering Tier 2 vocabulary using academic word lists.

Take the word conclude’ as an example. If we quickly teach the word parts con’ meaning completely’ and clude’ (Latin: claudere) meaning to shut’ we begin to understand that conclude means to completely close something – an essay/​an argument. If we also teach the prefix in’ meaning not’ we now open up words like inconclusive’. In fact by teaching the head word conclude’ we can open up an understanding of 9 other words in that family.

Top tips for vocabulary teaching…

Say the word to students using the correct pronunciation.
Write it on the board
– it is vital to write it out clearly. You may ask students to write the word larger than usual and leave plenty of space around it.
Break the word down
into its constituent parts, perhaps using different coloured pens for this.
Repeat the word
one more time emphasising the different parts of the word – teachers may ask students to chant out loud along with them so they can sound out the words correctly.
Discuss the etymology
of the word – It is useful if you can link the word to everyday language that the students are familiar with.
Give an example sentence
using the word – ask students to write their own sentences using the new words they’ve learned.
Regularly reinforce
the new vocabulary by revisiting it – use word games, quizzing etc.

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