Driver Youth Trust is excited to announce a new partnership with author, Tim Glynn Jones on ‘Word of the Week’.  Tim explores the meaning behind words and describes an assortment of wry observations on life as well as revealing some surprising historical facts and amusing home truths.

DYT’s Director of Education, Jules Daulby explains why this is such an exciting collaboration.

I’ve loved etymology (the study of words) and the linguistic features of words since my PGCE course in English and Drama.  Exploration of word derivation and how this links to morphology such as prefix, root and suffixes made something click for me.  You see, I’d never really thought about words in this way before.  To suddenly see ‘sub’ as ‘under’ and then realising this worked with subway, subtract and submarine explained so much and incidentally, improved my spelling.  If you’ve always found this obvious, it may seem strange what a Pandora’s Box it opened for me, but it shaped my teaching practice and later how I taught students with literacy difficulties.  Why? Because it brings interest and stories to what previously was just a bunch of letters put together to say something.  For students like me, explicit teaching of words is required but once you’ve ignited a curiosity, your students will do the hard work for you, imagination will run wild and before you know it, they’ll be bringing bizarre facts linked to Malvolio in Romeo and Juliet or stalactites in Geography.

A growth in the importance of explicit vocabulary teaching has been brought about largely by eminent speech and language therapist, Isobel Beck, author of Bringing Words to Life Stephen Parsons’ Word Aware book and Alex Quigley’s Closing the Vocabulary Gap.  As is usually the case, through learning how those who struggle most with language acquire understanding, we can apply this to all children regardless of attainment and background.  DYT’s core belief is that inclusive literacy strategies are just good teaching and these evidence-informed techniques help many students and harm none.   Universal strategies in a mainstream classroom are vital to empower all learners including those with language and literacy difficulties.

inclusive literacy strategies are just good teaching and these evidence-informed techniques help many students and harm none.  

Beck and McKeown’s advice is simple:

“Students with limited vocabularies are well able to learn new academic words when they are taught in a robust way. That is, when the words are introduced in student-friendly language, exemplified in various contexts, and students are given opportunities to use and play with the words.”

They suggest the following practice when introducing new vocabulary

This, by @ImpactWales summarises nicely how to teach vocabulary:

It is also worth noting for secondary teachers that the evidence for teaching vocabulary in KS3 will have benefits for GCSEs:

“The more explicit the teaching of vocabulary that is done in KS3, the better pupils will manage in KS4”. Predictors of Language Gains Among School-Age Children with Language Impairment in the Public Schools

It’s not just about subject specific language however, Beck and McKeown warn that a lack of knowledge of tier 2 words (see image below) can also disadvantage children. The great news is that exposure to rich vocabulary through story books are the best way to help.  Teachers, keep joyfully reading aloud and discussing picture books and fiction because we know it works!

And never stop reading aloud, no matter how old your students are.  I’m reminded of my partner who, on Friday afternoons used to read disaster stories from Kayaker magazine to his level 2, Outdoor Education cohort.  All the students and his teaching assistant plus many in the library would listen transfixed.  The magical connection of groups and reading aloud is irreplaceable and, safe in the knowledge we know it makes a difference to vocabulary acquisition, we can sleep easy in ours beds.

I’m really looking forward to learning more words and especially the history behind them, I hope you’ll join us on this new venture.

Enjoy our new partnership with ‘Word of the Week’, starting with our vocabulary advent calendar in the run up to Christmas.

Word of the Week is written by writer and author Tim Glynne-Jones, who began it as a weekly blog in 2016. A book of the first 52 words in the series – Word of the Week: Volume One – is available to buy at
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