How to transform your school into a language-rich community

By Aaron Leary

10 Mar 2022

A teacher browsing a library and reading a book

Raise the profile of whole-school 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 improving literacy can’t be left to chance, or view the full presentation.

A whole-school literacy strategy – one 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 a 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.

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 learners, whole classes and even in assemblies.
  • Learners’ language: ensure all staff encourage learners 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 learners 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.
A poster showing the topics for Blocks 3-6 on Bedrock Vocabulary

Some of the texts available in Blocks 3-6 of Bedrock's vocabulary curriculum.

  • Reading time: set aside dedicated time for reading for pleasure, either individual reading or with a class reader. When reading is front and centre, everything else will follow.
  • Vocabulary journals: give learners 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.
  • Celebrate progress and success: at a class and cohort level, mark achievements with certificates and other prizes to celebrate learners’ efforts. 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 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 consciously in contexts from lessons to assemblies – this helps to 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.

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