7 ways to make whole-school CPD impactful

To ensure staff remember more from training sessions than what was on the lunch menu, follow our top tips for impactful inset.

Every teacher knows that strong literacy is crucial to a student’s academic success; Geoff Barton states in the 2018 Oxford Language Report that “vocabulary is a huge predictor of how far children from any background will succeed at school and beyond.” The knowledge of vocabulary leads to better comprehension, helping students to better understand a topic as a whole. However, how do we extend the benefits of vocabulary T&L to all subjects across the curriculum? Does each member of your faculty know how to harness techniques of disciplinary literacy to see results in their subject, whatever that subject may be? That is why we have compiled a list of tips for improving whole-school literacy CPD, helping you coordinate your vocabulary T&L across the entire curriculum.

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But first, why whole-school literacy CPD?

Traditionally, one might think that a lack of vocabulary knowledge would affect a student primarily in English. However, a lack of ability and confidence in reading comprehension has negative effects on a student’s progress in every subject. The average reading age of a GCSE paper is 15 years and 7 months – a reading age lower than this leaves students unable to access their examinations for every subject, not just English. According to the Read All About It report, up to 20% of GCSE students have a reading age of 11 or under.

Take this example question:

Imagine if a student did not know what the word “constant” meant. They may struggle with this question, not knowing what steps to take to solve it, despite having the mathematical skills to answer it correctly. This leaves the teacher unsure as to what exactly their students are struggling with (and leaves the student unable to grasp already difficult concepts due to a lack of Tier 2 vocabulary.)

Take this example from a Science paper:

Not only is Science already full of subject-specific Tier 3 vocabulary, but there is also the confounding factor of Tier 2 vocabulary within the question. Again, imagine a student did not know the word “adjust” – a teacher may struggle to know which part of the question the student did not understand.

Whole-school literacy CPD assists teachers in highlighting subject-specific vocabulary in their curriculum, increasing students’ comprehension of Tier 3 key words. This aids teachers’ awareness of their class’s learning, saving them time!


Ways to encourage staff buy in to literacy CPD

Returning again to Geoff Barton, he states that “we should see reading, writing, vocabulary, speaking, listening, debate, and more, as the complex tapestry of great teaching, enacted in every lesson, in every phase and subject domain, by every teacher.” But a busy teacher likely doesn’t have the time or energy to retain information on a topic, such as whole-school literacy, that doesn’t feel like it directly relates to their subject. Some teachers may struggle to see the importance of focusing on literacy in Maths, or Chemistry, or Computer Science. However, research by the Educational Endowment Foundation suggests that teachers in every subject need a focus on literacy, helping students to access learning across the curriculum. It’s crucial to base in evidence (such as the examples given above) the importance of teaching Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary in all subjects across school, using examples of reading reports such as the Oxford Language Report, the Read All About It report and others. Statistics such as 50% of GCSE-age students having the reading age to understand their exam papers – these sorts of results are important when trying to implement whole-school literacy.

Using the infographic given above as inspiration, you could analyse the data for your school and create a context-specific infographic for your staff, impressing upon them the importance of a literacy focus in every subject. What does this gap look like in your school? Just how many students are ill-equipped to access their own learning? This statistic matters for outcomes in every subject, and this should be impressed upon your entire faculty to improve buy-in for your whole-school literacy CPD.


Strategies to teach Tier 2 vocabulary

You have the research and the enthusiasm to improve literacy across your whole school, but where should you get started? With Tier 2 vocabulary, these words are not likely to be said in everyday conversation, and not likely to be said in a highly subject-specific classroom either. Here are some tips as to how you can encourage the improvement of your students’ Tier 2 vocabulary in every classroom throughout your school.

Have meaningful conversations with students – Tier 2 words aren’t as commonly used in conversation as Tier 1 words, so an easy, not too time-consuming way of improving vocabulary across your school is by encouraging teachers to use Tier 2 language in their conversations with students. This simple switch allows students to see high-level, specialised language embedded into conversation with useful context, increasing their comprehension. Instead of “how should this slide be changed”, use adjust. Instead of “watch and see what happens”, use monitor. Knowing these words will be helpful to your students in every subject.

Combine reading and writing – Encourage your colleagues to rework the way students make note of new keywords and vocabulary. Instead of having students copy definitions from the board, try to contextualise the vocabulary, allowing students to utilise and comprehend new words. Reward the use of these words in writing and in conversation. Come exam time, understanding of these words will be better embedded, helping students access their learning resources and examinations. Bedrock Vocabulary utilises the benefits of this type of learning, rewarding students for crafting their own vocabulary definitions in their topic lessons.

Use root words – Teaching students how to break down words into their roots and affixes helps them not only to understand the words currently being taught, but also how to break down words they may potentially encounter in the future. For example, breaking transform down into its roots (‘trans’ meaning across, and ‘formare’ meaning form, so moving across forms). If this understanding of words is taught consistently across the curriculum, knowledge from one subject will be transferred to another, benefitting the teaching of your whole faculty. The joint effort you give to your literacy CPD will in turn make it easier for everyone. Check out our blog for more guidance on roots and affixes, or download our roots and affixes flashcards.


Strategies to Teach Tier 3 Vocabulary

Teachers in STEM subjects may be more accustomed to teaching Tier 3 terminology. In fact, you probably teach it every day. However, could the way you teach your subject-specific vocabulary be improved? Are you promoting Tier 3 vocabulary development in every subject across the curriculum with the consistency to see significant improvement in your students? If so, are there ways the process could be streamlined to save your faculty time?

Put your words in context – Going from hearing a term for the first time to using it accurately doesn’t happen immediately. To speed up the process, use your new keywords in a sentence, link them to a picture and put them into a cultural context. Words like equator might be difficult to understand fully without a picture or video, and these can be amazing ways to dual code your students’ understanding. Reward students for using the word correctly. How about upgrading your students’ vocabulary as they discuss? If a word they use could be replaced with a more specialised topic or keyword, suggest it. Model its use. The time spent linking these words to contexts students can understand saves time reteaching them later, and saves marks in important exams.

Make visual displays – Like Tier 2 vocabulary, Tier 3 terminology benefits greatly from being broken down into roots and affixes. For example, words like “photosynthesis” become much easier to understand when students know photo means “light”, and synthesis means “to put together”. Breaking these words down in a physical display not only reinforces true understanding of this subject-specific terminology, but also helps students carry their understanding of roots and affixes into other subjects, strengthening your school’s disciplinary literacy.

Create a Tier 3 vocabulary curriculum – The best way to ensure your teaching of Tier 3 vocabulary is consistent across the school is to build a bespoke curriculum. However, this is a time-consuming process, and you may be worrying about staff buy-in at the prospect of such a large task. Luckily, Bedrock Mapper, our new piece of educational technology, is designed to make this process easier, using premade structures and resources to ease the coordination of your whole-school Tier 3 curriculum. Available from September 2021, Mapper is a time-saving solution to allow your school to create a subject-specific, consistent vocabulary curriculum (and reap the benefits!)

Promote whole-school CPD in your school

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