An update from Innovation Funding Round 1

2 October 2017

In the first round of Innovation Funding last year Bishop Challoner Catholic College was successful in their idea of developing literacy with KS3 students.  Sean Smith, Senior Vice Principal shares the story…

The problem: A Literacy Deficit

New GCSEs are placing greater literacy demands on students than ever before. Vocabulary growth hasn’t been systematically taught in schools because it’s always been believed to be an ‘organic’ side effect of reading. But outside school hours, students don’t really read anymore. There is a literacy deficit; vocabularies are not developing in the way you might expect. Stunted vocabulary recognition and usage puts a very low ceiling on GCSE performance for some of our abler students.  The literacy deficit will impact most on key groups of students who are already susceptible to underachievement: less able and disadvantaged students.

The Rationale

In addition to boosting voluntary reading, schools need to teach students active reading strategies that allow them to derive the greatest possible vocabulary gains from the kind of non-fiction reading they are actually doing in schools.

The Innovation

When students read texts they are trained to highlight words with the most transferable potential e.g. verbs, adverbs but particularly adjectives.

They reflect on and classify the  adjectives using a ‘Goldilocks’ formula:
1. Too easy (Known it since primary school)
2. Too difficult (I couldn’t transfer that word for use in another context)
3. Just Right (I could confidently use it in another context)

Students are trained to hone in and store words in their Word Banks. They are challenged to use them in randomly generated spoken and written contexts with the maxim: ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’

Students gain recognition and rewards by placing words in written work in English, Humanities and literacy based subjects. They are encouraged to exercise their judgement and bank words that they will get the chance to recycle again soon. Bonus points are awarded when the word is successfully reused.

Why we think it will work

1. Focusing on adjectives and verbs always develops inferential understanding of any text.
2. Vocabulary acquisition is given a new status.
3. All staff have a chance to recognise and encourage.
4. The concerted efforts of English and Humanities staff equates to 40% of curriculum time.
5. The word banks show students that there is a tangible currency derived from reading.

How can we demonstrate that it works?

1. Individually, students will have word banks where we can track the progression of the words.
2. The words in the bank are ticked off when the students can demonstrate that they have used them in another context/subject.
3. All students will sit an initial KS3 reading comprehension test.  Only some teaching groups will be trained with the methodology.
4. All students will be retested after 8 months.  We will track changes in scores between students who’ve been banking vocabulary set against control groups of students who were taught literacy in a conventional way.

We will be coming back to Sean for an update in the Spring term…

Posted on 2 October 2017
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