I have been a teacher for 29 years, a Headteacher for 14 years and, at the age of 53, this much I know about the importance of teaching students the skills to broaden their vocabulary.
Words matter more than ever. How can you meet the academic challenge of the new GCSEs and A levels if you do not have the vocabulary to understand the content? At Huntington we are obsessing with helping students broaden their vocabulary. How to unpick the possible meaning of a word can be taught to students. Yesterday I was teaching the Human Development Index and using this slide from the Tutor2U website:
Model the process. We are much more alert to the gaps in our students’ vocabularies than we have ever been before thanks to the training we are receiving from our in-house expert Marcus Jones. Discussing point 2 on the slide, I asked one of my students what “inequitable” meant and she replied, without thinking, that she did not know. I covered up the “in” and the “itable” and asked her where she usually found “equ” in the language. She was still confused. I asked her to write down “equ” and, as she wrote it down, to see what letters she would naturally write next; she began writing and automatically wrote “equ-a-l”. “Aaah” she exclaimed, “equal”.
“So, if something is inequitable what do you think it means?”
“That it’s not equal, maybe that it’s not fair”, she concluded.
What I had done in that micro-moment of pedagogy is lead the student through the process of unearthing a word’s meaning, a process she will need to become expert at if she is going to broaden her vocabulary and be successful in her A level Economics examinations next summer.