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Using ambitious vocabulary in writing in Year 6 at Gorseybrigg Primary School

About our school

We are a small school with single form entry in Dronfield Woodhouse. We have a Foundation Stage Unit for Nursery and Reception children.    

At Gorseybrigg Primary School we aim to develop happy, enthusiastic and confident children with enquiring minds whilst providing them with the appropriate skills, attitudes and values which equip them for life.  We help children towards independence, promote high personal standards and develop their awareness of the needs of others.

We have contributed four case studies to the Project READ website.


Our staff team are interested in the way that children learn and use ambitious vocabulary in writing.  We want to develop a ‘have a go’ ethos from Nursery to Year 6. In a staff meeting, we discussed which strategies our children were using to ‘have a go’ at using ambitious vocabulary in writing.  We wondered which choices the pupils were making when writing.  Are they choosing to challenge themselves?

Ultimately, we want to raise the standard of vocabulary that the children were using in speech and writing.  We want children to become self-motivated and confident to use ambitious vocabulary. Here are our aims:

To develop children’s understanding of challenging vocabulary and to identify next steps for learning new vocabulary.

To create an ethos of ‘Word Awareness’ for all staff and children.

To encourage children to explain their own knowledge and understanding of new vocabulary and to make links between the different meanings of words.

To raise the standard of spoken and written outcomes through school.


This work took place in January - February 2019.


Firstly, we held a staff meeting to discuss the importance teaching vocabulary explicitly.  We discussed the work that we had been doing in our Foundation Stage and we discussed using Isabel Beck’s tier model to decide which words we wanted to teach.

We then discussed how we could approach this ‘have a go’ approach to create a vocabulary-rich ethos throughout school and talked about what we hoped to achieve by teaching new, ambitious vocabulary explicitly.

We decided to trial the tier model with each class taking a slightly different approach to choosing the ambitious vocabulary.

In some classes the words were chosen to link with each topic (e.g. the arctic, dinosaurs). In other classes, the vocabulary was chosen to link with a specific area of learning (e.g. problem-solving, adverbs). 

In Year 6, the vocabulary was chosen from the class text (Treasure Island and then Harry Potter).  The tier 2 words were chosen because they would be transferable and useful in other subject areas and topics. They were taken directly from the book by the teacher.  The words were displayed on the triangle model for the children to use in writing and each word meaning was explicitly taught through the text.

The children were encouraged to use the tier 2 vocabulary in speech and then in writing. They were very motivated and excited!

To evaluate the impact on writing, we looked at 2 examples of writing, 1 example completed before we introduced the tier model into the classroom, and 1 example from after the tier model was displayed and the word meanings had been taught explicitly.


Adults' skills and confidence Staff are now confident to use Isabel Beck's model to identify which words are going to be taught explicitly.  Staff have noticed that the children are eager to use the words in speech and writing.  The ‘have a go’ ethos is now embedded in the classroom and children are now asking the meanings of new words.

Adults' knowledge and engagement with the process of teaching new vocabulary explicitly Staff have been enthusiastic to try this new approach to teaching new vocabulary and have successfully created a vocabulary-rich ethos.

Impact on children’s learning The children have been motivated to use the ambitious vocabulary which is displayed on the classroom wall.  They are now asking the meanings of unknown words as they come across them in their reading and are discussing synonyms more often.  The children are more confident to use the ambitious vocabulary in their writing and the teacher has noticed that the children are making more ambitious vocabulary choices in independent writing.

Impact on pupil choice regarding challenge Pupils are now choosing to use more challenging vocabulary in their writing and they are more confident to 'steal' a word from the vocabulary triangle.  Children are also choosing to use the ambitious vocabulary in speech and will ask the meanings of unknown words.

Next steps

This process has had a positive impact on speaking and writing outcomes very quickly.  From the first introduction of the words most children have been motivated to challenge themselves to use the vocabulary in context.  The quality of writing has improved and the children are more able to discuss the meanings of new words. Our next step is to display 'tier 2' vocabulary on the school website for parents to access.


Sophie Kirkwood – Reception Teacher – Specialist Leader of Education for EYFS - Assistant Head Teacher

Tel: 01246 418508     Email:

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.

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