WHOLE SCHOOL STRATEGY
Assistant Headteacher Ms A Douglas
Literacy at The Green School for girls
Cognitive scientists have known for decades, the most important factor in reading comprehension is not generally applicable skills like finding the main idea — it’s how much knowledge and vocabulary the reader has.
Natalie Wexler, author of The Knowledge Gap
The most effective post-pandemic strategies are the same as those pre-pandemic, to focus on inclusive teaching, improving students as learners through literacy and self-regulation skills, built on the foundations of strong pastoral care. Our long-term focus is on increasing students’ vocabulary and background knowledge so they develop fluency in their reading, writing and speaking as recommended by Daniel Willingham, the renowned cognitive psychologist.
We have a ‘Graduated Approach to Literacy, Oracy and Reading’ in place to enable our students to flourish and be confident, articulate, word rich and knowledge rich learners so they have the very best opportunities in life.
There are three waves of support:
Wave 1 - Inclusive quality first teaching for all students
Wave 2 - Small group additional interventions for students just below national expectations
Wave 3 - Individual or very small group interventions with a trained teaching assistant
Our approach of disciplinary literacy is to improve literacy across the curriculum, recognising that literacy skills are both general and subject specific, emphasising the value of supporting teachers in every subject to teach students how to read, write and communicate effectively in their subject domains. Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools, Education Endowment Fund, Oct 2021.
To do this, our intent is to use explicit vocabulary instruction exploring the hierarchy of vocabulary:
- Tier 1 words are learnt through everyday common language use, for example, book or smile
- Tier 2 words are more prevalent in written language, contain multiple meanings and are important for reading comprehension, for example, measure, fortunate and analysis
- Tier 3 words are mainly subject-specific vocabulary
Building Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary improves reading fluency and the ability to analyse more challenging texts and access the rest of the curriculum. Our graduated approach and use of explicit vocabulary instruction deepens knowledge, recall, and memory.
Additional initiatives supporting students in accessing more challenging Tier 2 terms include ‘Word of the Week’ based on Averil Coxhead’s academic word list.
Drop Everything and Read Sessions take place in form time to build concentration and reading stamina.
Writing is challenging and students in every subject benefit from explicit instruction and class feedforward on how to improve Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. Teachers employ a variety of strategies to introduce new vocabulary, modelling it through explanations and questions. Writing and planning frameworks support students with structuring essays and academic writing. Students can independently use the literacy placemat in their planners to check grammar, construct more complex sentences and vary connectives. Students are taught to recognise features, aims and conventions of good writing within each subject.
Speaking and listening
Our Graduated Approach to Literacy, Oracy and Reading supports all students with practising and embedding new vocabulary to become more fluent readers, writers and speakers. Reading aloud is just one element of oracy in the classroom, it’s about verbalising one’s thoughts through discussion, presenting, performing, debating, being able to reason like a Scientist and talk like a politician.
‘It is the understanding about the richness of words that ensures that incidental word learning happens more effectively. It is the end goal, and means, for continued vocabulary development.’
Alex Quigley author of Closing the Vocabulary Gap.