“Closing the Vocabulary Gap” at Silverdale

24 May 2018

During the past academic year, vocabulary has become a core focus at Silverdale Secondary School in Sheffield. The idea that vocabulary is a corollary of success and life chances cannot be ignored, and it is the school’s intention to make sure that “academic literacy” is on all our improvement plans, and a key part of our professional training next year.

The school’s work in this area has benefited from our engagement with Huntington Research School. This has included our Associate Assistant-head of Teaching and Learning attending their Building Confident Research-leads training programme, and then a follow-up visit from Alex Quigley to discuss the vocabulary gap and strategies that can be used to close it.

Following this visit, the English department discussed the resonances with our current teaching and implications for curriculum and teaching in the future. Some of the ideas from that meeting include:

  • ‘Word Consciousness’ to be welcomed and experienced in the classroom by teachers – basically, permission for us to take our time and talk about words in thoughtful, associative ways
  • Using synonyms (or asking for synonyms from pupils) to stretch and build vocabulary
  • Tightening up on private reading time to ensure pupils are encountering and recording new words
  • Reviewing our Key Stage 3 literature texts to ensure challenge in vocabulary
  • Building vocabulary tests into KS3 schemes of learning
  • Using poetry sheets (such as that at the start of the article) to focus on certain word

We hope that using a range of approaches will give pupils more exposure to a range and depth of vocabulary, and that doing this will give students more tools with which to tackle the challenges of the curriculum.

Richard Benn

English Subject Leader, Silverdale School, Sheffield

Posted on 24 May 2018
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