The aim of the Project READ website is to support collaboration between schools in our joint endeavour to improve reading outcomes for Derbyshire pupils. A huge 'Thank you!' to all who have contributed case studies. Use the case studies as a starting point to reflect on practice in your school with colleagues. Explore the 'Useful Links' tab for research, resources and continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities. The password to view the video clips is projectread

'All about Electricity' in Year 3-4 at Herbert Strutt Primary School

About our school

Herbert Strutt Primary School is on the outskirts of Belper town serving a very mixed catchment with 210 pupils on roll. Around 36% of our pupils are classed as 'disadvantaged'. The majority of pupils enter the school in Reception below average, as only a minority access nursery provision before they start. 

Herbert Strutt is full of exciting and challenging experiences, where pupils develop a love of learning and a determination to be their best. It is a caring and safe community, where everyone is respected and included. Pupils’ achievements are celebrated and the whole community is proud of themselves and of each other. 


Communication and language was identified as an area for development across all ages and therefore we decided to focus upon the vocabulary strand of Project Read as our core thread. 

Our strategic objective: Throughout the school, in all topic areas, the explicit and systematic teaching of vocabulary effectively supports children’s learning.

I decided to begin the project with Year 3 and 4 pupils. These were the aims of our first action plan:

Pupils will start to use some metacognitive strategies independently to learn new words and will be able to talk about these strategies.

Pupils will start to monitor their own reading using some metacognitive strategies to self-correct so that texts make sense.

To identify ‘what works well’ to teach this set of tier 2 words to Year 3 and 4 and identify ‘next steps’ for implementation for the rest of the school.


Action Plan 1: Baseline 5th September 2018 - 22nd October 2018 (7 weeks). Filming took place at the end of February 2019.


To begin, we brainstormed all the words that we thought the children would come across in the electricity unit. We then used Beck’s tier framework to organise the vocabulary so that we had clarity on which words we were going to explicitly teach. 

Using the metacognitive strategies from the first training day, we devised a teaching sequence that we used to teach new words.

Clip 1: How we introduce a new word This is the teaching sequence we use in Year 3-4 to introduce new words. 

We decided that the children needed to see and understand how the ‘word triangle’ (using Beck’s tier framework) worked. We have displayed the vocabulary triangle so that it can be referred to during all lessons. We also developed a football net display signifying the words being caught and the net representing the links between the vocabulary. Every time a new word is taught it is added to the football display. This is also continuously referred to during all lessons.

Clip 2: Visual supports in class A 'word triangle' and the 'Word Wizard' football net display help the children to focus on the new words.

In order to measure the impact of the teaching, before rolling out to the rest of the school, we used the ‘Ever heard a word’ sheets. We collected data for 60 children across Year 3 and 4.

Clip 3: Electricity - baseline assessment 'Ever heard the word' sheets helped us assess impact. This clip shows one child's understanding of the words at the beginning of the topic in September - and then 7 weeks later.


Clip 4: Electricity - impact after 7 weeks I assessed 60 Year 3-4 children using pre- and post- 'Ever heard the word' grids. In this clip, I describe the impact on children's self-evaluation of their 'knowledge' of the word - and on their ability to write a sentence independently using the word.

Clip 5: Current, flow, and cell Here are pre- and post- 'Ever heard the word grids' from two pupils. Both children demonstrate greater breadth in their use of the words after 7 weeks of explicit vocabulary teaching.

Clip 6: Year 3-4 pupils discuss vocabulary strategies At the beginning of this session, we gave these learners questions to prompt discussion. They then talk independently about the strategies they use to learn new words and to make sense of words they do not understand.

Clip 7: Which strategies help you most? Year 3-4 pupils talk about which strategies help them to learn new words and to make sense of words they do not understand.

The data collected clearly demonstrated that all children benefited from the explicit teaching of vocabulary. Due to the careful selection of words taught and the cross-curricular links across literacy and other subjects, the children were able to use the vocabulary in all areas of the curriculum. For our higher-attaining children, it was evident that the explicit teaching had positively impacted on their breadth of vocabulary. The children are able to clearly describe the strategies we use to teach vocabulary and how this helps them.

Next steps

For the explicit vocabulary teaching, we have continued to use this approach and have rolled it out across the school. 

After attending a range of training opportunities, I felt it was important to make links between 'Talking Strategies', guided reading, Talk for Writing, 'No Nonsense Spelling', phonics and the explicit teaching of vocabulary. 

I delivered INSET and staff meetings on: reading for pleasure, 'Talking Strategies', guided reading, explicit vocabulary teaching and links to phonics and 'No Nonsense Spelling'. We had a Cluster INSET on Talk for Writing, which I followed with more training about linking explicit vocabulary teaching to this approach.

All staff are using the vocabulary triangle, new approach for teaching reading and the first three talking strategies.

For the next phase, I plan to:

Release staff to work 1:1 on a specific focus from their classroom.

Embed the strategies that we have begun to use this year.

Continue to make links between explicit vocabulary teaching, guided reading, talk for writing, phonics, No Nonsense Spelling and topics.

Continue to evaluate and adjust, taking feedback from staff and data analysis from across all year groups.


Contributor: Mrs Carly Howell 

Deputy Headteacher and English Lead 

Additional information

Would you like to take part in a vocabulary project in your school? Project Vocabulary EYFS - Year 6 is a collaborative CPD opportunity available to primary school clusters in Derbyshire. It builds on the robust foundations of Project READ. It will enable schools not involved in the original project to participate in similar, collaborative school improvement projects. Participating schools work in partnership with Derbyshire's Teaching, Learning and Assessment Consultants and with Specialist Leaders of Education from Derbyshire's Teaching Schools. Contact for more information.

1.How we introduce a new word. Password for all clips: projectread
2.Visual supports in class
3.Electricity - baseline assessment
4.Electricity - impact after 7 weeks
5.Current, flow and cell
6.Year 3-4 pupils discuss vocabulary
7.Which strategies help you most?
Related Case Studies
'We love playing with dinosaurs!' Boosting vocabulary in the EYFS at Holmesdale Infant School

Year group - EYFS

In this case study, Sarah shares how the explicit teaching of vocabulary in Reception is encouraging children to use new words in play.

...(click to read more)
Which 'dear'? Teaching word meanings and spellings: homophones in Year 2 at Buxton Infant School

Year group - Year 2

In this Year 2 whole class session, Sarah teaches the homophones 'dear' and 'deer', with a strong focus on spelling patterns, word meanings and how to use the words in sentences.

...(click to read more)
'Supertato' in the EYFS at Lenthall Infant and Nursery School: can we use ambitious words in our writing?

Year group - EYFS

In this case study, Lisa shares her experiences of teaching vocabulary more explicitly in the EYFS.

...(click to read more)
'On the Farm' in the EYFS at Gorseybrigg Primary School: planning which words to teach

Year group - EYFS

In this case study, we share how we encouraged children to learn new words in our topic 'On the Farm'. 

...(click to read more)
Developing vocabulary through a sensory approach in a woodland environment at Alfreton Nursery

Year group - EYFS

In this case study, Laura shares her experiences of playing and learning alongside two children during Forest Schools - and captures the impact of these experiences on the words the children use.

...(click to read more)
'Wonderful Words' in the EYFS at Ripley Infant School: 'We're going on a journey!'

Year group - EYFS

In this case study, Hayley shares how real life experiences helped the children to acquire new words. The topic the children were exploring was 'Journeys'.

...(click to read more)
'All about Electricity' in Year 3-4 at Herbert Strutt Primary School

Year group - Year 3-4

In this case study, Carly shares the impact of teaching vocabulary explicitly in a Science topic. Pupils from Year 3-4 share their 'Word Wizard' strategies. 

...(click to read more)
Using ambitious vocabulary in writing in Year 6 at Gorseybrigg Primary School

Year group - Year 6

Sophie shares how Year 6 pupils have been encouraged to challenge themselves to 'have a go' at writing ambitious vocabulary in independent writing.

...(click to read more)