How to transform your school into a language-rich community
Raising the profile of vocabulary helps improve literacy
Turning your school into a language-rich community has a direct impact on your students’ literacy and their success across the curriculum. Here, I share ideas for raising the profile of vocabulary in your school, whether or not you already use Bedrock.
I talked about these tips in more detail in my presentation to the Cornerstone English Hub. You can read some other key insights in my blog, Intentional excellence: why teaching vocabulary can’t be left to chance, or view the full presentation.
A whole-school literacy strategy that clarifies your literacy improvement actions, how they will be embedded and how success will be evaluated instantly raises the profile of language and vocabulary across your school, helping to transform it into a language-rich community.
All this is especially close to my heart as founder of Bedrock, as well as former English teacher and Literacy Coordinator. The following tips on whole-school language transformation are distilled from my Intentional Excellence in Teaching Vocabulary presentation to the Cornerstone English Hub. Most can be utilised in all schools – even those that don’t currently use Bedrock.
How a blend of approaches help create a language-rich school culture
Six tips for creating a language-rich school culture
✓ Teachers’ language: ensure all staff use Tier 2 vocabulary – academic words that are encountered across the curriculum like measure, consider and evaluate – in their speech to individual students, whole classes and even in assemblies.
✓ Students’ language: ensure all staff encourage students to use Tier 2 terms in their verbal and written responses. For example, in the Bedrock community, Harwich and Dovercourt High School put their current Bedrock word lists on keyrings and prompt students to use them in their speech.
✓ Wall displays: use these around the school, in classrooms and communal areas, to embed the idea of a language-rich curriculum. In primary schools these could include words from topics across the curriculum. At secondary level, they could include subject-specific Tier 3 words that encourage students to think like a mathematician, debate like a historian, and experiment like a scientist! Read our top five ideas for a great display. If your school uses Bedrock, you could brighten up your walls with posters of our book covers – for Blocks 3-6 and Blocks 7-12.
✓ Reading time: set aside dedicated time for reading for pleasure, either with individual reading or with a class reader. With reading ‘front and centre,’ everything else will follow.
✓ Vocabulary journals: give students journals to record new vocabulary they encounter across the curriculum, alongside definitions, contexts, and even illustrations.
✓ Use tech: used alongside excellent classroom pedagogy, tech has a valuable role to play. Bedrock Vocabulary provides a time-saving, solution to teaching vocabulary using bespoke fiction and non-fiction texts designed to boost cultural capital. A ten-year curriculum suitable for all students in Years 3-13, its algorithm tailors learning to the individual. Bedrock’s intentional, consistent approach features embedded reteaching to maximise long-term retention of knowledge. Progress is easy to measure on an individual and cohort basis, and word trend reports – showing the words students have mastered and are still learning – are available for teachers, students and parents.
✓ Celebrate progress and success: at a class and cohort/assembly level, mark achievements with certificates and other prizes to acknowledge and celebrate effort and results. Communicate this with parents too, at a one-to-one and group level.
Bedrock tips for a language-rich community
If your school is already benefiting from the Bedrock approach, there are some additional key ways you can help your school become even more language rich:
✓ Teachers model Bedrock language: each month, use the data from your dashboard and word trends report to identify the most-studied Bedrock words. Circulate these to staff across the curriculum to be used deliberately and consciously in contexts from lessons to assemblies, to help enhance your language-rich community.
✓ Reward excellence on Bedrock: celebrate progress and success among the whole school community. Certificates and awards in assemblies are one way of doing this – certificates are easy to download from the Bedrock app. There are many aspects of literacy improvement you can easily identify from our reports and choose to reward, including time spent on Bedrock, number of lessons completed, number of words learned and progress made. See our blogs on motivating students on Bedrock and how they earn Bedrock points.
Read more of my insight in Intentional excellence: why the teaching of vocabulary shouldn’t be left to chance.