A Practical Resource for Teachers

 As teachers, we know that words matter. Words are the key to opening our pupils’ minds, to expanding their horizons and to helping them to express themselves as precisely as possible. We know about the ’17 million word gap’; we can see the difference between our strong readers and those who need a little extra support. We know that if we don’t do something to bridge the vocabulary gap that they might never catch up with their peers.


We know that they need to access texts rich in the tier two vocabulary they rarely hear in speech. We know that they need well-planned, structured lessons that tease out misconceptions and provide plenty of examples of the word in context. But we also know that these things take time to produce, and whilst teachers are wonderfully resourceful in many ways, there are only so many hours in a day.


With that in mind, I wanted to create something that was practical and timesaving for teachers. Rather than a theoretical guide (I’ll leave that sort of thing to people much cleverer than me), I thought it would be helpful to make a series of lessons that teachers can start using as soon as the book arrives on their desks. The introduction explains how the lessons work, and then we go straight into it. No faff. No time wasted. No unnecessary complexity.


What is it?

‘Building Brilliant Vocabulary: 60 lessons to close the word gap in Key Stage 3’ is pretty much what it says on the tin: a sequenced set of 60 lessons, fully planned, with accompanying worksheets that teachers can print and copy for their students.


Each lesson begins with oral questions to get your students thinking about the concept. The word is then introduced with examples and non-examples to tease out misconceptions. Next, you can test whether your students truly understand the meaning of the word by asking them to identify the correct and incorrect examples in a further activity. The remaining activities focus on seeing and using the word in context. Lessons end with a short text that aims to bring the word to life. For example, in lesson 56 ‘Subvert’, students read about the author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie as a ‘subversive’ writer. I believe that the best way to bring a word to life is to see it used in context, so I think these reading pieces will be very helpful.


Finally, I have also added in book recommendations linked to the words your students study, in the hope that it may inspire them to read and learn more.


Which words are included, and how are they sequenced?


I spent far too long trying to select the right words and put them in the best order. The words I have chosen are all ‘tier 2’ words: words that we might read in books but only rarely hear in speech. These are the most high leverage words for improving a child’s vocabulary over time. I also wanted to choose words that would help to unlock complex concepts in the most commonly taught GCSE texts. So I chose the word ‘superstition’ for its links to Macbeth, but of course it has many other uses more generally.


Example words included in this resource: oppressive, revolution, justice, flaw and exploitation.


I’ve tried, where possible, to interleave previously taught words so that recap is built in, and to ensure that students continue to see those words in new contexts. It is my hope that this will help them to build deeper connections between the words and concepts studied.


How could it be taught?

The lessons are planned to last for approximately 10-20 minutes, depending on how much time the teacher dedicates to each activity, so this could work as a starter activity or a short intervention during tutor time.


The lessons have been planned with non-English specialists in mind, so schools may wish to use these lessons as a way to embed literacy across the curriculum, or to ask Teaching Assistants to deliver to smaller groups.


The lessons are aimed at Key Stage 3 students, but could be adapted for the top end of Key Stage 2 or as an intervention at Key Stage 4.


Teachers are welcome to adapt lesson to their classes, focusing on some activities in more depth in order to suit the needs of different learners.


This is a great way for schools to use their Catch Up Premium or Pupil Premium Grant. If your SLT are looking for ways to improve literacy in Key Stage 3, this may be helpful.


Where can I get my hands on it?


The programme includes 60 lesson plans and corresponding student worksheets, all sequenced and planned with high volumes of examples, non-examples and practice exercises.


You can order the programme on Amazon here, or on the Collins website here.


I really hope it’s useful. If you’d like to comment on this blog with any feedback for the book, I’d be delighted to read it. Similarly, if you’d like to contact me on Twitter (@katie_s_ashford )with feedback or questions, I’m happy to help.


I really hope that this is a useful resource. Happy teaching!

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