Mind the Vocabulary gap - what it is, why it's important, and how it can be closed

Published on: 
Friday, 19 February 2021 - 10:41am
By: 
Eva Kyriacou, Early Years Teacher

I hadn’t come across the CLPE until I started working at my current school, and boy am I glad I did! The quality of the training courses, speakers and texts used are unparalleled. I always leave sessions with a renewed sense of passion, enthusiasm and excitement to get stuck into the gap tasks. I have often been on courses, where only about 20% of the day is useful and engaging. However, the CLPE has a way of structuring the sessions, so there is a good balance of information relayed (always research-informed), key informative speakers, interaction from attendees and practical strategies to achieve the desired outcome. In addition to this, I think the genuine passion and teaching experience of the facilitators like Charlotte and Anjali contribute to the efficacy of the training. They are really relatable, well-informed and have a real understanding of the demands of working in schools in different year groups. Upon reflection, the courses always start with the bigger picture - i.e. how things currently are or what the problem is, then we look in more detail at why it is important and what we can do about it. This helps you leave each session with real practical activities to trial, and energised to contribute to improve the educational landscape in your own sphere of influence. 

The project I am currently involved in is entitled ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap’, a project which strives to expand the vocabulary of pupils, develop their word comprehension skills and enhance their use of words in differing contexts. The project aims to marry up teacher subject knowledge and the home learning environment to improve the teaching quality and provision for Literacy in the Early Years. We started the course by looking at the bigger picture - what the landscape currently looks like and why communication and language development must be prioritised. This was all explored within the firm foundations of up to date research. We developed an appreciation for ‘why’ this is so important; namely, because acquisition of early language affects every single aspect of a child’s non-physical development. For many children, language is acquired unconsciously and without much effort, but for numerous others, this is not the case. For these children, whom I feel have been ‘disadvantaged’ by systemic under-resourcing, this is what is believed to contribute to the achievement gap which is disturbingly already in existence when children begin school and remains till they have left! Communication and language skills are so integral to succeeding in the world of education and employment, low levels of language have a strong relationship with children’s later life chances.

We then moved to look at ‘how’ - how can we work towards achieving this? High quality teaching and learning in Literacy in the Early Years is a given of course, but specifically this was broken down into exploring the importance of talk and story, song and rhyme, the use of texts and engaging continuous provision to enhance the play-based learning of children, and finally by ensuring that all children are exposed a to a range of high quality text types. In every session, we have had the opportunity to engage in depth with high-quality texts, partake in a variety of cross-curricular teaching approaches and even meet some key authors! All in all, I look forward to the sessions, and leave each one with a renewed appreciation for why this work is important and a firm understanding of the practical ways I can contribute to changing the narrative in my own small corner of the world. I am looking forward to completing the course over the Summer term and evaluating the positive impact it has had on all our pupils.

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Find Eva on Instagram @earlyyearsdiaries where she shares inspiration and ideas for the classroom.