Closing the Vocabulary Gap

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Closing the Vocabulary Gap

Closing the Vocabulary Gap

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CTVG – Exploring Etymology PPT– this PPT offers a starter resources for exploring the etymology of individual words. Beyond this, we know that, ultimately, the most reliable method to broaden and deepen the vocabulary of our students is to get them reading a significant amount (a good reader can read a million words a year or more). Another key strand in supporting students’ acquisition of vocabulary is through oracy. Inset CPD has been used to support teacher questioning and classroom discussion. Some disciplines, such as science, are less comfortable using debate and teachers have asked for further support with this. We are a Teams school and the use of breakout rooms was a function that I found particularly useful in online teaching. The capacity to drop in and out of small group discussion was rewarding – even if occasionally students were caught ‘off topic’! Connections between words are at the heart of this book. In English, despite many exceptions, there is a systematic relationship between letters and sounds, and, therefore, between spoken and written words. In contrast, relations between word forms and their meanings appear arbitrary. However, with more knowledge about words, morphology and etymology, it is clear that there are, in fact, regularities here, too. We must give our students the necessary tools to develop their vocabulary independently. If we want a school-leaver to have something like 50,000 words, it’s a daunting task. But we can close the gap: by explicitly teaching a mere few hundred words well in the classroom, children grow their vocabulary exponentially by learning the related word families and having more tools to read independently with success. Children can go on to learn around 3,000 to 4,000 words annually. Year upon year of such growth sees the 50,000 figure become achievable for each child we teach.

Sarah Eggleton: Alex Quigley’s book Closing the Vocabulary Gap had a big impact on me, reinforcing that it is the moral imperative of every teacher to improve students’ vocabulary to ensure they have the best possible life chances.

Your thoughts

Importantly, once children can read, it also involves written words. Vocabulary breadth - the number of words that you know - is important. But, as Quigley emphasises, so too is vocabulary depth: what you know about words and how they connect to other words. This is important for teaching because we can’t teach children every word that we think they might need to know. It is more feasible to teach crucial vocabulary alongside these regularities and patterns. Education is the process of preparing us for the big world and the big world has big words. Themore bigwords I know, the better I will survive in it. Because there are hundreds of thousands of big words in English, I cannot learn them all. But this does not mean that I shouldn’t try to learn some.” David Crystal, ‘Words, Words, Words’ What marks out ‘word consciousness’ from explicit teaching and incidental vocabulary learning? For me, it is the focus on gifting our pupils with independent word learning strategies. It is the understanding about the richness of words that ensures that incidental word learning happens more effectively. It is the end goal, and means, for continued vocabulary development. Understand the language children need to acquire at each step of their education and how to support them in doing that

We completed learning walks of vocabulary teaching to see it in practice, followed up with a student-voice survey looking at the consistency and frequency of teaching. Promote vocabulary that’s relevant for developing disciplinary knowledge across the entire curriculum I wanted to ensure that this book offered insights and practical solutions for teachers at every key stage and phase.To support this, I have added free resources to my blog to run alongside the book – making it more user friendly. I will surely add to the resources, but you can now access the following at RESOURCES available on the main menu:CTVG – 7 Strategies for Exploring Unfamiliar Vocabulary’– this is a companion resource to the SEEC model, offering accessible strategies to Explore an unfamiliar word. This book brings together research evidence and teaching experience to provide practical knowledge and resources for primary and secondary teachers. Quigley draws on research to distinguish academic from everyday words; and cross-curricular words (for example, “analyse”) from subject-specific words (for example, “photosynthesis”). Vocabulary knowledge involves information about spoken words and their meanings. In a sense, children are not just exposed to the definition of a word but have a detailed knowledge of its multiple meanings and the various ways that it can be used. While music and rhyme are excellent, there are other strategies that can be used to teach a new word. Three simple and effective options are pronunciation (saying the word aloud), charades (acting the word out), and writing (using the word in context). If we know what words are in daily use, we can help our students improve their speech with the academic vocabulary that sets them apart for success beyond the school gates.

It has never been more important for us to close the “vocabulary gap”; this is one of the big narratives of Covid catch-up. That gap - the difference in the number of words that a child from the richest and poorest homes knows - has a real impact on life chances, and it has reportedly been widening during the coronavirus pandemic. My definition: Here, the teacher introduces the word and the class discusses possible meanings. They explore where their ideas have come from: does it sound or look like a word they’ve heard before? Does it have parts of a word they know, and so on? A student-friendly definition is then displayed and discussed. The teacher removes the definition and students write their own version into their books. But words are things, and a small drop of ink, Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. Lord Byron, Don Juan, 1819–1824 One Word at a Time – Teach Secondary article– this article is an accessible way in to the ideas and strategies developed in my book. Stretch and challenge – children could write the word through applying their grammar knowledge and identifying word class(es).Explicitly teaching vocabulary can enrich knowledge and understanding of the world, and it’s a useful proxy for a great deal of general knowledge in a range of subject domains.



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