Closing the Vocabulary Gap

16 March 2018

We were really lucky to welcome Alex Quigley to Derby this week to talk to the primary Heads’ Strategic Leadership Meeting about ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap’. The short presentation touched upon some key themes and gave some great food for thought as we explore the necessity and strategies to close the vocabulary gap so that all our pupils can achieve their potential.

The Vocabulary Gap and Power of Reading 

The talk was interesting and shared may key principles about reading being a powerful tool for helping to close the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils. Here are two of his blogs linked to the topic for some really interesting reading and further links:

The Early Vocabulary Advantage

The Power of Reading

Ultimately, reading is the gateway to the whole curriculum and therefore the key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary.

“Vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities – not just skill in reading, writing, listening, and speaking, but also general knowledge of science, history and the arts.”

E.D. Hirsch, ‘A Wealth of Words’


Skills for Reading – The Scarborough Reading Rope

The skills of reading are so interwoven and to become a fluent reader involves a mastery of all these skills, as demonstrated in the Scarborough Reading Rope visual.

reading rope

Scarborough’s Reading Rope (figure 1) provides a useful model for reading by likening it to a rope comprised of multiple strands.7 The two main strands, word recognition and language comprehension, are supported by a broad academic consensus and underpinned by research evidence.8 These two main strands are composed of sub-strands that need to ‘become entwined’ as pupils learn to co-ordinate the different components of reading.
The model can be used as a diagnostic tool to identify areas to focus effort. Although all of the strands represent an important component of reading this does not mean that they require equal curriculum time. For example, most pupils will require a greater focus on their language capability (language structures and vocabulary) and reading fluency, but some will still need a focus on more basic skills, such as decoding. Therefore, it is important to understand pupils’ current capabilities and focus effort appropriately.

Source: EEF KS2 Improving Literacy Guidance Report


Closing the Vocabulary Gap

Alex explored a few key principles in how to address the vocabulary gap:

closing the vocabulary gap

Free Resources

CTVG Next Steps 10 Questions (1) – Reflective Questions and Next Steps

7 Steps CTVG Inforgraphic – Infographic Poster (above)

CTVG. SEEC model (1) – Exploring the SEEC Model


The idea is promote word consciousness in students by:

  • Students reading more actively;
  • Students (and teachers) being more aware about words and how they are used for communication in subject disciplines;
  • Recognising parts of words: root words; prefixes and suffixes; word families;
  • Exploring etymology;
  • Unlocking and discussing layers of meaning;
  • Learning strategies to work out the words you don’t know.

Further Reading – How Words Cast Their Spell Spelling Is an Integral Part of Learning the Language, Not a Matter of Memorization by R. Malatesha Joshi, Rebecca Treiman, Suzanne Carreker, and Louisa C. Moats

joshi.How words cast their spell (1)

joshi.How words cast their spell (2)

We are excitedly awaiting the up-coming book launch on the topic to delve even deeper into the topic. Watch this space for further news…

Posted on 16 March 2018
Posted in: Blog

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