Thornleigh Salesian College

Robust vocabulary instruction

Research around robust vocabulary instruction indicates that teachers make assumptions that students will remember a ‘brief explanation’ of key, complex or rare vocabulary; students are bombarded with vocabulary as a result increasingly demanding curriculum and exam specification content; and students are grappling with comprehending increasingly challenging test questions. As part of the school’s lesson study CPDL model, a group of teachers at Thornleigh Salesian College has been using the Frayer model to tackle some of these challenges around Vocabulary.

The Frayer model is a graphic organizer that provides a structure to enable meaningful academic and subject specific vocabulary to be taught explicitly and clearly. A teacher identifies meaningful words from curriculum plans, test questions or extracts by using an online academic word highlighter or through professional judgement. Where professional judgement is used, the fundamentals are that either the students are unlikely to know the precise meaning of the word and/or that the word is central to the understanding of a text. Once a word has been identified, teachers explicitly teach it during a lesson using the Frayer model by providing a student friendly definition, an example of the word in another context, some homonyms or non-example before posing a question that focusses on the word for students to answer. Importantly, at least two follow up instruction opportunities should be planned by the teacher to try to ensure deep learning.

What was the impact?

To date evidence is suggesting an informal link to academic success. Recall during reviews of prior learning and responses to test questions indicate a stronger vocabulary size. Improved performance may align with research suggesting that, if more words are understood by students, then more working memory is ‘freed’ up to learn new knowledge.  There has been a positive shift in learning climate because of the expectation that students use academic vocabulary in the classroom.