OVERALL CURRICULUM INTENT
Nurturing Ambitious Individuals
A Vocabulary and Knowledge Rich Curriculum
“Communication and language are the foundations of learning and thinking. Words describe and define the limits of our understanding.” (Education, Endowment foundation 2019).
At Slaley First School, our children enjoy language and have a thirst for new words. As a result, we have rich vocabulary embedded throughout our curriculum. We recognise that a child’s vocabulary is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational abilities - not just reading, writing, listening, and speaking - but also general knowledge of science, history and the arts. In designing the structure of our curriculum, we have used a two-year rolling cycle to accommodate mixed year groups.
At the heart of our curriculum is English, where lessons are based upon a structured approach to phonics alongside the delivery of a carefully planned range of lesson genres which include early fiction books, modern stories and classic texts. Through these, we build confidence in reading independently. As children progress through the school, we simultaneously encourage them to develop a full range of comprehension skills and to transfer the knowledge that they have gained through reading, in order to write and interact cohesively with high quality vocabulary.
Specific vocabulary is a fundamental part of our curriculum. Terminology is taught and built up over time as the children progress through the school. Children are challenged to apply their use of this vocabulary in written work, where expectations match those of the English curriculum.
Our curriculum is set out in small incremental steps in order to minimise the scaffolding needed. Research by the Education Endowment Foundation indicates that it is just
as important to avoid over-scaffolding as it is to ensure all pupils are adequately supported. It also indicates that it is important to take account of the prior knowledge that children bring to lessons and to help them to build upon this understanding. Our curriculum is therefore designed to build upon prior knowledge and skills. It is self-reviewing in the form of ‘Flashback Four’ where knowledge gained is consolidated and built upon to support retention and recall.
Our lessons are consistently and effectively implemented, and the words are never used in simple isolation. They are used in context and as part of a wider theme. Teaching a word alongside a story about the stone age, for example, has the two-pronged benefit of contextualising the words within appropriate sentences. In placing vocabulary at the heart of our curriculum, we aim to ensure all of our children, regardless of background will make optimum progress because an interest in language is embedded in our school culture. Core vocabulary is embedded in our curriculum and knowledge is taught in a progressive manner. Skills are also developed over time and they are also set out in our curriculum plans in a progressive manner.
We believe it is predominantly through a good understanding of language that we can process knowledge. A deep understanding of words will help our pupils to critically analyse historical texts and sources, subject-specific terminology will quickly be grasped within maths and science, and the ability to identify the emotional and dramatic weight contained within the words of a script or song lyric will come naturally.