Vocabulary and Oracy

“Reading Floats on a Sea of Talk” James Britton

At St. Martin’s we believe that a child’s language and literacy skills are the foundation from which they build their future learning. It is because of this we place great emphasis on securing confidence and competency in these skills particularly in the Early years but also throughout the school. 

Recent research into children’s vocabulary and the impact it has on their attainment has found that:-

  •  “Vocabulary at age 4 is the best predictor of achievement at age 16 out of all measures yet studied”
  •  49% of  Year 1 children have limited vocabulary
  • Children with low vocabulary at age 5 are 50% more likely to have literacy or mental health difficulties at age 34 and are twice as likely to be unemployed.
  • If a child is in the lowest 20% of vocabulary knowledge at age 5 and you want them to move to an average level within 3 years, they would have to learn 20 new words a day every day for each of those 3 years.  

We have found this to be the case at St. Martin’s where a large proportion of children are entering our Foundation Unit with below age related skills in communication and language. We have invested in a range of diagnostic assessments such as ‘TALC’ and ‘Speechlink’ to help provide targeted support for children that need it. Staff have received training on how to support children to build their vocabulary and to skillfully interact with them during their play to develop these communication skills.

At St. Martin’s we strive to provide the children with a rich and varied ‘diet’ of vocabulary. We invest time in professional development to understand how to help develop children’s vocabulary and their oracy skills.

We do this through an approach we call ‘5 a day’. This approach aspires for each child in EYFS to experience a broad spectrum of language in a range of contexts every day. 

This is achieved by every day…

  • hearing/telling a story, 
  • hearing/telling a poem, 
  • hearing/singing a song/rhyme, 
  • having a chat/engaging in discussion
  • word of the week (key vocabulary explicitly taught).

Throughout the school, teachers are developing their teaching of vocabulary and carefully choosing vocabulary using the Three Tiers of Language Approach to plan and teach discrete vocabulary lessons.

This language focused approach starts in our nursery and also forms the basis of our early support offered to parents. At our home visits we gift the book ‘You Choose’ to each child which is a fantastic resource for developing vocabulary through conversation. We also have leaflets that we offer to parents which outline the importance of chatting, playing and reading with their children at home and the impact it can have on their attainment.

We have made a deliberate choice to have seated lunches, requiring children to remain seated for 30 minutes, to specifically influence the development of talk, and this is supported by year 6 buddies who serve at the younger children’s tables.

Across the school we use a range of approaches to develop Oracy which can be described as “learning to talk and talking to learn”. These include Philosophy for Children which provides children with the skills to listen and respond to other people’s opinions and ideas, and to contribute their own.

We work very hard to support parents to understand the value of talking and reading with their children at home. In Reception, our first parent workshop, which happens in the Autumn term, places a lot of emphasis on the importance of having conversation around the dinner table and also the power and impact of sharing a bedtime story. 


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St Martin's C of E Primary and Nursery Younghayes Road, Cranbrook, Devon EX5 7DT
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