Vocabulary’s coming home!

It’s coming home – but what does it mean?

Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m sitting in my living room to catch the mid-match half-time chit-chat as part of my weekly World Cup fix (can you tell I’m not a big football fan?), I often find myself at a complete loss as to what it is they’re actually talking about. Harry Kane spent that first half keeping ‘deep’, that premeditated foul should have been ‘carded’, free kick this, offside that… and can someone please tell me what on Earth a ‘lob’ is?

So if you’re like me and you don’t have a clue what’s going on when these commentators get going, just take a minute to think about what it’d be like to be surrounded by that every moment of every day. Exhausting, right? And more than a little bit frustrating! Well, that’s exactly what the classroom feels like for some of our students – and it’s about time we do something about that.

It’s a wordy kind of world out there

Just as I’ve recently found myself drowning in a sea of sporting terminology, our classrooms are whirlpools of academic vocabulary that most of our students just don’t understand. Take the latest 2018 Reading SATs papers, for example – did your students know what it means to ‘seize the chance’, that ‘vital’ is a synonym of ‘essential’, or that that an ‘impression’ is not just a funny comedy technique but actually an effect produced by something or someone?

Such Tier 2 language saturates the educational system, but so few of our students are able to accurately and effectively understand or use such vocabulary. It is therefore obvious that there lies a direct correlation between pupil’s vocabulary sizes and their academic achievement; narrow vocabularies have a severely detrimental impact on pupils’ grades, as is supported by the OUP’s word gap report. How are we to expect our pupils to do anything but struggle in such an environment when they are utterly unable to navigate it?

What’s more, this issue isn’t exclusive to the classroom – and I’m not just talking about understanding Alan Shearer’s preamble! Think of all the times you’ve found yourself struggling through pages of IT jargon, or those iffy trips to the garage when you pretended to know much more about your car than you actually do (don’t worry, I have no idea what it means when the mechanic tells me there’s ‘excessive play in my suspension’ either).

Okay, so most of the time we’re able to scrape through these downright confusing interactions (just!), but that’s because we already have the language skills necessary to do so. Research has shown that stronger readers, who understand around 95% of the language used, are able to rely on the strength of their existing vocabulary in order to make sense of the unknown 5%. Without this wealth of knowledge, reading becomes almost inaccessible and comprehension is completely out of the question. The world is a very difficult place if you don’t have the right tools to figure it out.

Many of our students don’t.

How Bedrock can help

Obviously this is a problem we need to address – and fast. The word gap will only continue to increase if we do not do anything about it; as the language rich continue to grow richer, the language poor grow poorer, and students with weaker vocabularies continue to fall behind in a world they are struggling to understand. But what can we do?

Well, we can start by giving vocabulary teaching more time in the spotlight.

Whilst most language learning occurs through incidental vocabulary acquisition, we cannot rely on this alone to narrow the word gaps between our students, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds (Beck, McKeown & McCaslin, 1983). Instead, we must provide our students with a structured, coherent and dedicated vocabulary curriculum in order to help them to effectively develop their lexicons. By focusing explicitly on vocabulary teaching, we can help tackle this epidemic by providing our students with a wealth of vocabulary and encouraging independent reading.

Time to take action

Of course, coming up with an entire vocabulary curriculum would take a significant amount of time, which is the one thing us teachers often lack! That’s where we come in; Bedrock Learning’s online vocabulary curriculum was created by two English teachers for this very reason. In our multifaceted programme, Bedrock Learning:

  • Teaches your students thousands of Tier 2 words for academic success
  • Embeds every word in engaging fiction and non-fiction texts
  • Develops your students’ cultural capital alongside language learning

Ultimately helping your students to establish a firmer understanding of their use of the English language as well as the world around them.

Sound good? Why not check out how Bedrock Learning could help your students today by booking a demo with a member of our team; our curriculum consultants are ready to bring explicit vocabulary teaching into your classroom!

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