English Blog - Closing the Word Gap - the challenge of our age

Closing the Word Gap - the challenge of our age

Two things have come together for me over the last week.  Firstly, we have just run ‘Moving on with Vocabulary’, a conference where we have built on the work of schools in vocabulary development over the last 3 years.  It was so exciting to see how far schools have come and how embedded the work is becoming across the whole school:  It just made me think that in Devon we have really come a long way!  The second thing was reading the Oxford Language Report:  Bridging the Word Gap at Transition, I am once again reminded of the scale of the challenge.

‘92% of teachers think school closures (due to Covid-19) have contributed to a widening of the word gap’

One thing is clear to me:  this is probably the hardest challenge we face in education if we are to stand any chance of levelling the playing field for children and now is the time that we need to re-double our efforts.  We use the following quote with teachers, not to dismay them, but to galvanise them into action:

‘According to Susan B. Neuman, a professor in educational studies specializing in early literacy development, “[Vocabulary has] been one of the most resistant-to-change skills in early literacy.  Generally, children come into school with vocabulary at one point and leave with vocabulary at the same point” (quoted in Sparks, 2013).’
Sprenger, M., 2017, 101 Strategies to Make Academic Vocabulary Stick, p.2

The key findings from the Oxford Language Report 2020 have led me to reflect on the work we have been doing in this area and moved me to put pen to paper to see if there is anything others could take from our work which might help us all to climb the mountain!

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