This year, the Literacy, Reading, and Numeracy Secondary Expert Group have been collaborating to develop some fantastic research informed strategies and resources to support the explicit teaching of vocabulary.
Starting with the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) seven recommendations for embedding Disciplinary Literacy across the curriculum, we decided as a group to prioritise the explicit teaching of vocabulary across the trust. Disciplinary Literacy is the belief that Literacy should be meticulously embedded into each subject’s curriculum and rather than be a whole school ‘literacy across the curriculum’ approach, it needs to be department specific to teach students how to code shift and how to communicate like an expert in every subject.
Our growing Expert Group spreads across the five secondary schools in the trust and comprises of Mathematicians, Scientists, Geographers, Artists, Historians, as well as Musicians, English, and Drama specialists. Being experts in our disciplines has allowed us to recognise that whilst we are very proud of our knowledge rich curriculums, if our students can’t understand the higher tier vocabulary within them, then they are not going to be able to access the essential new knowledge as planned. As Alex Quigley puts it, ‘you could have the Ferrari of curriculums, but without explicit vocabulary instruction, it would be about as beneficial as a Ferrari without a key’.
As the Expert Group Lead, I shared a selection of high-quality research with the group before our second meeting around the Frayer Model. The Frayer Model is traditionally a quadrant that can be used to introduce students to tier 2 and tier 3 words. The table introduces students to the morphology (how the word is broken up) of the word and the etymology (where the word originates from), as well as a pupil friendly definition which deepens the students’ knowledge and understanding of the word. The other boxes are then used as an opportunity for students to apply their new knowledge of the word to a range of skills application tasks that will show their understanding of the word and identify any misconceptions. As a group, we have agreed to trial this resource in our classrooms and practitioners will be evaluating the impact the model is having on pupils’ understanding of new knowledge, their reading and writing, and their confidence with using higher tier vocabulary in their discourse to promote high standards of disciplinary oracy throughout the trust.
Our goal is that by the end of the year, we will have created a trust wide support pack to
guide practitioners with using the model in lessons to support all learners, and the support pack will also contain an arsenal of additional resources that will support colleagues with the explicit teaching of vocabulary and breaking reading and writing tasks down into small steps to avoid cognitive overload and strengthen the reading and writing skills of students in all subjects.
To further support colleagues within the CAT with the concept of ‘Disciplinary Literacy’, I liaised with Catharine Driver from the National Literacy Trust to organise some bespoke CPD which was designed to introduce teachers to ‘Disciplinary Literacy’ and how it can be approached and embedded into all subject areas. This virtual session, delivered on Wednesday 26th January, was very popular and gave staff across the trust a unique opportunity to collaborate with different departments and schools to question how they teach reading and writing in their subject areas: this allowed staff to highlight similarities and differences across subjects and emphasised the importance of having a departmental approach to literacy. Additionally, Catharine shared some excellent resources with colleagues to support reciprocal reading and modelling longer writing tasks which I look forward to revisiting and discussing with colleagues at our next Expert Group meeting in March.
If you have not yet been to one of our Expert Group meetings, but you are interested in joining the group and getting involved, please do not hesitate to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) it would be great for the group to continue growing.