Vocabulary Report 2016/17: Part 1


Thank you to everyone who took the time to read last week’s inaugural post. The comments left, and the tweets over on Twitter, were a delight to read, and gave me lots of ideas about what this blog will be most effectively used for. I feel thoroughly welcomed into the edu-blogosphere.

What will this two-part post cover?

Part One

  • What I’ve done this year in regards to developing vocabulary and a love for words in my kids.
  • What’s worked (with an in-between thrown in for good measure)

Part Two

  • Questions and reflections (some difficult ones too). 
  • Main ambitions for 2017/18.

Part One

Showing off

This one took a while for the kids to get used to, but ended up having a hugely positive effect in developing an excitement around words; elevating vocabulary development to the status it needed within the classroom. I’d make a deliberate show of using ‘cool-sounding’ words. These words were relevant, not superfluous, but I’d be purposefully boisterous in my delivery.

This is all part of general teacher attitude and enthusiasm. Your enthusiasm and passion will rub off on your children. My mind immediately beelines to that quote about the teacher being the one who controls the weather in their classroom.

I’ve been off sick for the last few weeks to recover from an important operation. My kids sent me some postcards. This was my favourite quote:

‘I have been a vocabulary show off. You got me into that.’

Walking, talking thesaurus

I go by a ‘Power of Three’ rule. This technique is difficult to plan for specifically. Instead, it relies on the teacher’s own knowledge of words, and the size of their vocabulary. When speaking, particularly to the whole class, get into the habit of giving extra synonyms to certain words.


‘Carla was furious, angry, livid about the events of the previous night.’

The use of angry is also deliberate. It helps to attach clearer meaning to the other two potentially unknown words, furious and livid.

Speaking directly to three children after a playground quarrel: ‘I understand that you’ve had a squabble. I think it’d be a good idea to discuss, talk about, debate the issue as a group.’

Again, as with the first example, talk about is sandwiched between two potentially unfamiliar words to help associate meaning.

It serves two main purposes: helping children realise that there is more than one way to say things. And accelerating the chances of deeper word learning.

Vocabulary Ninja

The Vocabulary Ninja has been a revelation. It (sorry, he/she?!) provides excellent daily resources such as KS1 and KS2 Word of the Day. The Ninja is also beginning to branch out with other useful and interesting resources like Word Power-Up, Synonym Alley, Synonym Circle, and I’m sure I’ve seen a word mat somewhere. I use the resources in a couple of ways:

  • Every KS2 Word of the Day is printed, in colour, and displayed on a giant ‘Wall of Words’.


  • Used as a ‘morning work’ activity. Children arrive at school and immediately begin looking at the KS2 Word of the Day. They discuss it, and then begin to use it in their own sentences. This isn’t marked, but I make a point of glancing at certain children’s sentences to see if they’re using in the right context, then a discussion happens if not.

Check the Ninja out if you haven’t already:

Twitter: @VocabularyNinja

WordPress: https://vocabularyninja.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VocabularyNinjaLive/

Essential vocabulary whiteboard


Exactly what it looks like. Any word used throughout the day that is integral to the learning. Try to keep at a minimum to avoid overload. One or two essential words per session.

Child-led word wall


This is used to display words the children have encountered mainly in books, but in general life too. The children are named and thanked for their contributions – the plane is there to hide an abysmal spelling mistake on my part, only realised after the photo was taken. The kids love this, and the board is regularly updated with fascinating new words they’ve discovered.

Reading aloud to the class EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I’ve chosen to colour this subheading orange for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I haven’t read to my children ‘EVERY SINGLE DAY’. Sometimes it is just impossible. I’d say I regularly hit four out of five days in a standard week. But on those PPA afternoons, the late-back-from-PE days, the school trips, and the plethora of other things that we all know pop up in the chaotic general timetable of a school, it is a challenge to hit five out of five on a consistent basis.

There is a mountain of research supporting the act of reading aloud to children. It has simply massive implications for a child’s development, but this is not what this post is about. I intend to blog about this in the near future.

However, the read-aloud, in my opinion, is a goldmine of opportunity for vocabulary development. Again, there’s a whole post waiting to be written on this aspect of vocabulary development alone.


Part Two will focus more on where I feel I need to develop, and put forward three points as part of an action plan. This was originally going to be included in one behemoth-style post, but, after some great advice from certain Twitter pals, decided that it’d be better split into two.


Questions and considerations:

  • Choose one thing that you feel has had the greatest impact on the vocabulary of your children this year.
  • In prep. for next week’s post, choose one thing that you really, really want to learn more about in terms of your own PD for the teaching of vocabulary next year.

If you feel comfortable, share your thoughts and responses either on the comments section that follows this blog, or on Twitter.


I’m putting on a workshop at Lead, Learn, Lancs ’17 on September 30th. There are lots of brilliant teachers/educators/leaders there providing a vast array of workshops too, it’s worth checking out!


Tickets are £10, and can be purchased here:






7 thoughts on “Vocabulary Report 2016/17: Part 1

  1. Another superb blog, Jack. First thing on my to-start list when I hit Y6 is the vocab ninja wall.

    Also, I don’t know where the research I got this from was, but I hear that for a word to enter a child’s vocabulary, it needs to be used, in context, six times. The power of three rule is fab for that – almost OVER saying it!

    ‘Carla was furious, angry, livid about the events of the previous night.’

    I am currently galvanised, impressed, inspired by your work.

    Well done bro.

    1. Thanks, Carla. Word Wall has worked really well, used constantly and referred to by myself and kids.

      Yes, I’ve read that too. Next week will focus on planning for next year, and will include actually planning target vocabulary, and making sure the kids are getting multiple exposures to each word.

      Love your use of ‘Power of 3’ – I am proud of you.

      We need to collab. next year with this!

  2. Competition works well too. I picked out some ‘tricky’ vocabulary from the book we were reading as a class, added some synonyms and other related work and created a point as table. Children were awarded a different amount of points per word used from a different column in the table.
    Points translated to housepoints.
    Definitely planning for a ninja wall though!
    Thank you so much for blogging about vocabulary!

    1. Nothing against a bit of healthy competition. You’ve just given me a crazy idea for some sort of verbal synonym battle. Children go head-to-head, given word, and have to name synonyms. Winner is the word who gets biggest reaction from the class. I’m only thinking out loud here!

      Thank you for reading and commenting! I think it’s, and I may get shouted at here, THE most important thing for a person’s development; at least on an equal footing with reading.

  3. Super idea!
    Would be brilliant to get that up and running. Also a fantastic and useful time filler for assembly etc (whilst waiting for everyone to come in). I need to get practicing myself… Hopefully I will have an LSA who’s up for a ‘battle’ too.
    Please let us know how it goes if and when you do decide to do it.

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