Just a quick blog, inspired by this much more detailed and challenging one by Solomon Kingsnorth:
I think he has a point about the importance of vocabulary, and it’s something we can easily underestimate. It’s also something we can worry that we’ll never be able to resolve, because there’s no way of knowing what vocabulary will come up in any given text or test.
So I took a look at this year’s KS2 Reading test paper and tried to identify some of the vocabulary required to answer each question. It’s not every word in the texts, but it’s also not just the case of the 10 marks theoretically set aside for vocabulary. In fact, I think there were 80 or more examples of vocabulary which might not have been met by pupils who don’t read regularly:
|Q10||extinction, survive, supplies, diminishing, poaching, territory|
|Q18||mountainous, praised, lavishly|
|Q19||wounded, lame, circumstance|
|Q24||hobbled, hesitate, peered|
|Q27||amusing, shocking, puzzling, comforting|
|Q30||suggests, bothered, basins, smelt|
|Q33||devices (left to my own devices)|
|Q35||dawned (dawned on me)|
|Q36||assorted, debris, network, grime|
|Q38||impression, evidence, frightening, intensity, cautiously|
|Q40||inspect, fashioned, ought|
The only questions that are counted as vocabulary marks are the 10 written in italics. And all those ones in bold? They’re listed as inference questions in the mark schemes. The challenge of inference is often about interpreting complex language as much as it is about guessing what the writer intended.
Perhaps more importantly, very few of those words are technically specific to the texts they appeared in. Even in the case of the non-fiction text about pandas, much of the apparently technical vocabulary is applicable to plenty of other contexts that children meet in the course of the curriculum.
The link here to ‘tier two’ vocabulary is clear: there is plenty of vocabulary here that would come up in a number of different contexts, both through fiction and non-fiction reading.
Which rather makes me think that Solomon is on to something important: a significant part of teaching reading is about getting them reading and reading to them.