There has been a large amount of research carried out in recent years surrounding vocabulary with some very troubling outcomes.

  • 65% of young offenders have been found to have unidentified speech, language and communication needs.
  • The quality and quantity of children’s vocabulary at age five is a strong predictor of how well they will be doing aged 30.
  • Children with larger vocabularies achieve more academically and display better behaviour.
  • Children with a wider range of vocabulary allows them to better share something of themselves – their feelings, ideas and experiences.

Home Reading:

We want our children to have a hunger for words, new words and finding out what new words mean. One of the half-termly home reading activities focuses on this. Every time the children read, they are asked to pick out one word that is new, challenging and interesting. Teacher’s then discuss these in class and consider ways these words can be used.

Foundation Subjects:

In each foundation subject, the leaders have designed vocabulary-rich, spiral curriculums. These intentionally chosen words are explicitly taught to the children and not left to chance. Each year’s vocabulary builds on the words of the previous year.

Stem Sentences:

Stem Sentences are a proven method to help improve pupils’ language proficiency, in turn, improving their communication and writing. They improve fundamental language skills as well as higher-level thinking skills, familiarising students with sentence structure, linguistic ability and lesson content all at once. Every subject in the curriculum has their own stem sentences.

Tiered Words:

At St Alban’s, we believe in the Tiered Vocabulary approach where words are categorised into three tiers. These tiers are based on frequency, complexity and meaning. As teachers, we know that a robust vocabulary supports reading comprehension and reinforces understanding of new and difficult texts. Using a tiered approach to vocabulary instruction assists the development of language acquisition and promotes a strong foundation for literacy across content areas.

  • Tier 1 Words: Basic words that are commonly used in spoken language.
  • Tier 2 Words: Academic Vocabulary appearing frequently across content areas.
  • Tier 3 Words: Low frequency words that occur within specific domains.

Our language rich displays around school show tier 2 and tier 3 words.


Alongside key writing disciplinary knowledge, Pathways to Write also builds in extensive opportunities to develop and apply vocabulary. Vocabulary boxes are in every unit and give guidance on the tiered vocabulary that is developed within that unit – as well as which statutory words are appropriate for that unit.


During the two-week cycle of studying a text, vocabulary is always a focus – even if the content domain focus is not. This is done at the beginning of the unit when introducing the text to the children. They are taught how to decipher the meaning of a word without a dictionary or asking for help using a variety of strategies:

  • Proper Nouns: Does it have a capital letter – is it a proper noun?
  • Context: Read the sentence / paragraph and figure out the context.
  • Root Word: Does it have a root word, prefix, suffix that they are familiar with?
  • Replace: Can the children replace the word with another word and it still make sense.
  • Word Class: Can the children identify what the purpose of the word in the sentence is and therefore what word class it is.