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'Wonderful Words' in the EYFS at Ripley Infant School: 'We're going on a journey!'

About our school

In our Foundation Stage Unit we currently have 59 children. The majority of children start school working in line with age-related expectations (ARE). However, over recent years there has been an increase in the number of children entering below ARE in Communication and Language and this in turn impacts attainment on entry in skills such as Reading. Children who enter working below ARE are carefully tracked and supported to make good progress from their starting points. We carefully plan our continuous provision to support children to make the best possible progress and we use a balance of adult-led activities and child-initiated learning. More recently, we have begun to use a 'planning in the moment' approach to support children’s immediate next steps in learning. We also use a range of interventions throughout the year including Every Child a Talker (ECaT) to ensure that all children make good progress with Communication and Language skills. 

Our school’s motto of ‘Growing and Learning Together’ is reflected in our caring, supportive ethos where children are challenged to be the best that they can. We believe it is important to develop the whole child and we aim to develop happy, confident and enthusiastic learners who are prepared for life in modern Britain. We encourage children to develop a positive attitude and to be respectful of others both within the local community and the wider world. 

We strongly believe in positive partnership between parents, pupils and the staff team, all of whom are committed to working together to ensure that children have the best possible start to school life. Every member of the Ripley Infant School community has an important part to play in ensuring success.


Our children enter school using a varied range of vocabulary, drawn from their different life experiences. As a team, we were interested in how we could extend each child’s vocabulary from their individual starting points.

Our aims were to enable all children to:

- understand and use a wider range of vocabulary in spoken communication

- develop comprehension skills for early reading

- use new and adventurous words when writing independently.

We were keen to involve parents in our journey as we work closely with parents and carers as partners in learning. They were informed about what we were hoping to achieve.

Finally, we had a whole school aim: to raise the profile of the importance of exposing children to new vocabulary from EYFS-Year 6.


I attended a Derbyshire CPD event which gave me a deeper understanding of:

- how we acquire, store and retain vocabulary

- a framework to identify which words to teach

- strategies to teach these words and to evaluate impact.

I also drew on my knowledge from other CPD opportunities: ECaT and 'Musical Gems'.

Following the CPD, I led a team meeting to share ideas. Our final topic for the summer term was ‘We're going on a journey!’. We used Beck's 'tiers' framework to create a list of possible words which could be taught explicitly through the term. After the baseline had been carried out we then had a short meeting to agree which words we would introduce each week. The total length of time taken to plan was approximately 1 hour and this was to plan a 6 week topic. The baseline assessment took place during an afternoon session.


Photos of the activities are attached.

The initial assessment  

I set up an activity area which contained a range of role play/small world resources, artefacts, pictures, photos and books which children could explore. These were linked to the seaside and going on journeys to different places. I observed and interacted with a group of eight children from each of the two classes using the resources and this helped us to identify which 'tier 2' words we would focus on. We also identified some 'tier 1' words to pre-teach and consolidate with some of the children. 

We informed all parents about the introduction of ‘Wonderful Words’ and what we wanted to achieve. The words were displayed in the teaching areas and on the parent notice board and classroom windows.  

Introducing the words

At the beginning of each week, we introduced the new words linked to the weekly theme. These were introduced through a variety of artefacts, pictures and video clips. We then explored repeating the new words after the adult, saying the words using different voices, clapping the syllables in the words and playing games like ‘Pass the Word’ (whispering words to each other, one by one, in a circle). We also used whole class movement and music sessions, role play and drama to give children opportunities to explore the meaning of words. These experiences gave children a memory or visual picture to recall the word.

Real life experiences

To provide further life experiences for the children we used a visit to East Midlands Airport to provide a practical ‘hands on’ learning experience. This again gave the children opportunity to explore the meaning of words and provided a memory or visual picture to help them to recall the new vocabulary. We also used the outdoor area and gave the challenge each week to make something using natural resources linked to our theme of the week.


Each week we used music as a stimulus to explore the new vocabulary. We used the structure for a 'Musical Gems' session so children could explore saying the words using a 'call and respond' approach. We also explored tapping the rhythm of the new words using instruments and used the tunes from familiar songs such as ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ to create our own songs using the new ‘Wonderful Words’.

Continuous Provision  

Each week we embedded the use of our 'Wonderful Words' across the different areas of provision both indoors and outdoors. We added enhancements linked to the weekly theme and these gave a scaffold for children to explore using the new vocabulary. All members of staff were consistent in supporting children to use our ‘Wonderful Words’ of the week, modelling the vocabulary during interactions and using questioning to check children’s understanding. 

Incidental planning in the moment

During some interactions staff members were able to ‘plan in the moment’ and extend children's opportunities by modelling the use of further adventurous vocabulary.

Successful Super Stars 

Throughout the topic, we were constantly amazed by the vocabulary that some of the children were remembering and using in general conversation and during independent play. We identified these children as our ‘Super Stars’. Many of these were children who would have usually used a more limited vocabulary and they were now able to use more adventurous vocabulary naturally and independently.


All members of the team are committed to teaching vocabulary explicitly. The progress which children can clearly make in such a short space of time is fantastic to see. Here are just a few of our observations: 

- The children confidently joined in with singing the new songs and they gained a greater understanding of the meanings of new words.

- The children were able to use the new vocabulary during role play. When creating their own models outdoors, many children used ambitious vocabulary independently to describe what they had created. 

- The 'hot spot' areas which saw children using the new vocabulary independently were: small world, 'making it', writing, role play (both indoors and outdoors) and construction (both indoors and outdoors).

- When looking at travelling back to the time of Dinosaurs, a member of staff had introduced ‘carnivore’ and ‘herbivore’ in the small world area. This was an extension of ‘meat eater’ and ‘plant eater’. Some children then confidently went on to use this new vocabulary in independent writing.

Next steps

- To create an ethos across the unit and school of encouraging children to ask for clarity when they come across a new word which they do not understand. 

- To continue to plan ‘Wonderful Words’ into each termly topic and to measure the impact on attainment in Communication and Language at the end of the 2018/19 school year.

- To continue to highlight the importance of using a varied vocabulary with parents so that they are able to support and extend children’s understanding and use of language at home.


Hayley Broadbent – Deputy Head & Reception Teacher – Specialist Leader of Education for EYFS, Ripley Infant School

01773 743354

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. For information about 'Musical Gems' and ECaT training, also contact .

1.Astronaut. Password for all clips: projectread
2.Songs about journeys
3.Songs about dinosaurs
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