A Whole School Approach to Developing Vocabulary

As we know, vocabulary plays an important role in being able to express ourselves accurately both in speech and in the written text.  As such, it is important in our developing sense of self.  Where we cannot adequately express our feelings, our wants, our needs or opinions, it can lead to a sense of frustration and heightened levels of anxiety.

When children are reading, if a word is not in their vocabulary, it can mean that they cannot be confident in how the word should be pronounced or its contribution to the overall meaning of the text.

When writing, many children will reduce their vocabulary because they do not feel confident in spelling the word.  Others will write using a reduced vocabulary because their vocabulary does not contain the words that they could use to make a more deliberate choice to influence or accurately inform their reader.

Vocabulary is best taught in the context of quality spoken and written language, where new words can be used and practised naturally and regularly in context. 

Some ways that will help children to grow and develop their language is through:

  • Quality adult and child conversations, where the adult models words in the context of natural spoken language and the child feels safe to imitate, practise and explore the uses of the word.  Words Up Key Messages
  • Repeated engagement with a shared book, where children hear new words and explore what they mean and have the word explained to them and have the opportunity to use the word in context.
  • Pre-teaching the vocabulary is useful for IDL work or when introducing a new book.  This means that when they hear the word in context, they are able to understand the text more fully.
  • Using semantic gradients is a fun way of learning how to use the correct word for each occasion and developing the skills for using words to influence the audience.
  • Planning for developing vocabulary across the curriculum, using the three tiers of vocabulary approach provides targeted learning and teaching.
  • For older children, learning the morphology of words is useful for building up an understanding of the units of meaning in a word and being able to transfer that knowledge to other words.  Using a word study approach, we look at the meaning of the parts of the word.  We can then use this knowledge to look for other words containing the same morphemes (unit of meaning).  This can be useful for looking at tier two words.

Two morpheme words – word   pdf   Three morpheme words – word    pdf

  • Assessing the growth of vocabulary across the years can also give us a useful indicator of which children require more a more targeted approach.  Vocabulary tracking

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