We want our students to have a rich vocabulary to enable them to understand and express sophisticated and nuanced ideas. Whilst the word rich students we teach will get richer the word poor will get poorer (the Matthew effect). We therefore don’t leave it to chance that our students will pick up ambitious vocabulary. Every year group has a list of ambitious vocabulary (45 words for KS3 and 90 for KS4) that we expect them to be able to use and spell accurately by the end of the year. I’ve written before about introducing ambitious vocabulary lists as part of our approach to homework (activities that have value but require no marking).
Students are tested on their vocabulary at the start of every Weekly Writing Challenge lesson and are used to this kind of low stakes testing in which they get regular feedback about what they do and don’t know. The best thing we’ve noticed, though, is that students are starting to really ‘own’ this language and feel empowered by it. These words are cropping up not only in their writing in English lessons but elsewhere across the school. Sure, sometimes students are not using them perfectly in the context of what they’re writing but it’s only by playing with the words and trying them out that students will get a handle of when and where to use them.
In the past we recommended the look, cover, write, check method for learning these words but then we came across the Quizlet app. It’s free to download and offers a variety of options for students to test themselves on their vocabulary list. It’s easy to use and, for teenagers regularly glued to their phones, it’s an accessible way for students to test themselves for a few minutes every day.
We have already uploaded our vocabulary sets onto Quizlet which you can find by searching users for ‘StEdsVocab’.
Once students have a set they can learn the vocab in variety of ways e.g. the ‘Match’ option of pairing up terms and definitions.
Or the ‘Write’ option where students are given the definition and have to type out the term (or vice versa). If they get it wrong the correct answer is flashed up for them.
If students make it onto a PC they even have the option of playing the Gravity game – protecting their planet from incoming word asteroids…
Quizlet is free, easy to use and accessible so it’s a win in my books! If you’d like to use or adapt our ambitious vocabulary lists then I share them here and you’ll be able to find them on Quizlet too.
Year 7 ambitious vocabulary list here.
Year 8 ambitious vocabulary list here.
Year 9 ambitious vocabulary list here.
KS4 ambitious vocabulary list here.