I posted here earlier in the year as we began our journey exploring vocabulary in more detail and explicitly teaching Tier 2 vocabulary to our cohorts. We have since offered a ‘Word of Week’ tailored to the curriculum content we offer with a few specific rules:
- The format of the Word of the Week remains the same for each and every new piece of vocab. This creates continuity throughout the year as students become familiar with the format and expectations
- The word is always used in context within at least one sentence in red underneath the definition.
- Word of the Week is ‘purely vocabulary’. Rather than using it as an opportunity to introduce subject terminology, the focus has remained on creating a depth and breadth of language to describe characters or enhance their analytical writing style.
Over the course of the year this has developed further to become a ‘case study’ of vocabulary tying together points made in both Doug Lemov’s ‘Reading Reconsidered‘ and Alex Quigley’s ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap‘.
With an in-depth exploration into the roots of vocabulary the benefits to our students has been two-fold: there is the kudos that comes with exploring Latin that makes them sit up in their seats and take note, feeling that little bit special. But more importantly, the logic that is brings to a language acquisition for our weakest EAL or ESL students. They have commented that by exploring the root words and ‘word families’ of vocabulary, they can see the connections between words and how definitions can often be uncovered for more complex vocabulary with an awareness of similar words and their meanings. Students feel empowered to uncover meaning based on etymology and prior knowledge, they may not always be spot on but new and complex vocabulary is no longer out of their reach.
Not content to leave it there, we also took to unpicking synonyms and antonyms for each ‘Word of the Week’. This is where the most fruitful class discussions have arisen: nuances in meaning, which we often refer to in class as the ‘colour chart of meaning’; the exploration of how meaning can change depending on the context and when a synonym has ‘leap frogged’ too far away from the original ‘Word of the Week’. Not every synonym or antonym is an exact comparison of like for like and students create their own lists of synonyms and antonyms before we share the ones on the case study Blue Peter style. We have also been reinforcing this visually for our EAL or ESL learners; dual coding synonyms and antonyms to highlight similarities and oppositions in vocabulary using chess pieces (see below). This format for our case studies was inspired by Vocabulary Ninja’s Vocabulary Laboratory and adapted into the form we are using currently.
Here are just two examples of our case study pages. Link to full set below:
I first shared the beginning of this journey on #TeachUAEChat with Alex Quigley as the guest speaker championing the importance explicit vocabulary instruction. This forms part of a wider vision for vocabulary within our school which includes ‘Magpie Books’ and will, in the new academic year, include topic specific vocabulary lists for all our studies. This is just one part of our journey in creating a robust vocabulary instruction this year.
For more resources on root words also check out Bedrock Vocabulary Root Flashcards