FlashAcademy: The ‘word gap’ needs addressing and closing

Now more than ever, the ‘word gap’ needs addressing and closing; this is the phenomenon that poses significant real-world consequences for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, which can include children with EAL.

A latest report by Oxford University Press suggests that pupils make slower than expected progress and achieve lower test results in subjects across the curriculum as a result of the word gap. The impact goes beyond grades, as research shows that pupils with language difficulties at age five were four times more likely to have reading difficulties in adulthood, three times as likely to have mental health problems, and twice as likely to be unemployed when they reached adulthood. As teachers report that 49% of Year 1 pupils and 43% of Year 7 pupils are affected by this word gap – now likely to have widened during the Covid-19 pandemic – schools need to be able to put in place strategies to bridge this gap and ensure equal opportunities for all pupils.

Addressing the word gap needs to be high on our agenda if we want to support our children and young people in fulfilling their potential and set them up to have positive life outcomes after leaving school. How can we approach the word gap and improve student literacy across the curriculum? We need to find strategies to incorporate vocabulary learning across the whole school. Combining short, sharp bursts of vocabulary lessons and games in form times with competitions will encourage children to interact more consciously with words in the world around them.

FlashAcademy’s Wow Words lessons can be used as part of a whole school vocabulary strategy. Examples of our Wow Words flashcards can be found in your complimentary NAHT resource pack. Here are some ideas for how you can introduce some Wow into all areas of the school:

Dedicate Wow time and space

  • Use form time to introduce words or to complete activities
  • Run a longer targeted intervention for nominated students
  • Start a Wow Club for students where students can play flashcard games or take part in extra Wow activities
  • Give each student a Wow Folder to store their work and to take home to share with their families.

Incorporate Wow Words across the curriculum

  • Plant Wow Words into lessons where possible to give students ample opportunity to notice them in context.
  • Use Wow Words in a starter question displayed on the board as students enter the classroom.
  • Award points or stickers when students use Wow Words in written work or speaking.

Dedicate a Wow display

  • Display the most detailed Wow Word Webs.
  • Display sentences students have recorded in their World Wide Wows.
  • Encourage students to post new vocabulary they have found (on the board, via an online platform, or in a box).

Celebrate dedication to your Wow Words whole school vocabulary programme

Ask students to share their World Wide Wows and reward with points or stickers when they can demonstrate that they have used a word in context.

Award certificates to students who complete their Wow folders in detail, ask for extension activities, or go above and beyond expectations.

Create a Wow Word treasure hunt; hide the words around the school and award certificates to students who find them all in contexts.

Although we must not pressurise children with EAL, especially new arrivals, to produce language beyond what is comfortable for them we still have a huge role to play in helping them to feel empowered and have the confidence to express themselves in any scenario!

NAHT members receive an exclusive complimentary resource pack when booking a free demo. Book your demo and free trial today!