Planting the Roots for Vocabulary Growth

A focus on effective vocabulary teaching has been a central tenet of our literacy policy at Durrington for a few years now and also forms an essential part of our whole-school PP strategy, which you can read about here and here Up until now, the focus has predominantly been on explicit vocabulary teaching, i.e. explicitly pre-teaching tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary that is crucial for accessing the curriculum. The teaching of these words and phrases is planned and stated on the curriculum and this means that it is consistent across all lessons in the subject. Teachers use evidence-informed strategies to teach this vocabulary such as sentence stems and the Frayer model.

Since the start of this term, we have elucidated further how to effectively teach new vocabulary as it occurs more spontaneously in the lesson as well as introduced a new strand to our vocabulary strategy based on the teaching of root words. This latter strand is crucial because, as well as direct teaching of vocabulary that is integral to the curriculum, we also want to increase our students’ word consciousness (see Alex Quigley here). By creating this word consciousness, we are handing over the tools to students so that they are better equipped to decipher meaning themselves when they encounter words they do not know. This is best achieved through teaching morphology (word parts). If students have a secure knowledge of word parts, they have the keys to unlocking the codified world of language.

How This Works at Durrington

Our approach is not complicated – we’ve tried to keep it simple but effective. Every fortnight we promote a different Greek or Latin root word to students. These root words have been selected using two criterion:

  • They are among the most frequent root words in the English language.
  • They are useful for vocabulary that students will encounter across subjects.

The root words that we have selected for the first wave of this strategy are:

cent – one hundred

circum – around

contra/counter – against

dys – bad, hard, unlucky

form – shape

fract – to break

graph – writing

hydr – water

mal – bad

mis/miso – hate

multi – many

spect/sec – to look

tele – far off

struct – to build

The next step is to ensure that students encounter the root word of the fortnight as much as possible and in varied contexts; this will help to deepen their understanding, or consciousness, of how the root word works. Consequently, we have adapted a multifaceted approach and one that entails all staff members’ engagement.

  • All classroom teachers display the root word of the fortnight at the front of their classrooms.

  • All members of staff with an office have been asked to display the root word of the fortnight on their doors. This includes teaching and non-teaching staff, and especially those with doors that are in high-traffic areas, for example members of the pastoral team.

Displaying these root words is nowhere near enough to make them a part of students’ word knowledge. However, what this visual approach does achieve is initiating conversations with our students, usually starting with the no-nonsense question, “Why are there blue cards everywhere with cent written on them?” In this way, we are creating opportunities for students to start talking, and therefore thinking, about the roots of their language.

  • All classroom teachers and teaching assistants are also actively seeking opportunities to explain how the root word of the fortnight works within the lesson they are teaching, if appropriate. For example, when cent was the focus root, an MFL teacher used it to help explain the formation of words used to label the higher numbers in French. Likewise, a maths teacher used it when teaching the names of different-sided shapes.

  • To support the above work, curriculum leaders flag up the root word of the fortnight in their departmental e-bulletins and provide suggestions as to when attention could be drawn to the root in upcoming lessons. See below an example from the computing and business bulletin.
  • Some departments have also made simple displays using the root word and signposting the where the root can be found in their subject-specific vocabulary.
  • We also provide exposure to the root word during a Period 1 slot. At Durrington, Period 1 is a 30-minute lesson led by form tutors at the start of the day (you can read more about Period 1 here). All tutors spend some of Monday morning P1 making students engage with the root word using evidence-informed strategies. The fact that this is done weekly means that we have two opportunities to teach the root word. This has proved invaluable for tackling misconceptions…

Reflections on the Strategy in its Early Days

By far the greatest issue that we have faced in this early phase is the misconceptions that teachers and students alike can have with regards to the root words. For example, cent is Latin for one hundred but many tried to make links to words such as centre and eccentric, which come from a different root. This has led to some confused discussions and garbled explanations!

Thus, it has become clear that teaching morphology means tackling the complexity of the English language head on. However, rather than see this as a challenge to overcome, we have instead embraced it as an opportunity to have even more in-depth conversations about the way our language works. This is where the fortnightly structure has been fortuitous: The misconceptions have revealed themselves in the first week and we have cleared them up in the second! As the strategy matures, we will be in a better position to anticipate these sticky patches before they arise but for now we are enjoying the surprises and satisfaction that comes with cracking the code.

Fran Haynes

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Weekly Round Up: 16th January 2022

Blog of the week

Through the Lens of Disadvantage by Phil Stock

A great post that explores the importance of appreciating the challenges of disadvantage within the school context and understanding exactly how the school’s strategy seeks to address them.


Metacognition – Bright Spots by Chris Runeckles

Some great examples of how teachers are implementing metacognition in the classroom.

Research School Blog

Calibration accuracy – what is it and does it matter? By Ben Crockett

Is there any merit in asking students to estimate their assessment grade before receiving their marked total?

Free Webinar

Date: 18th January

Time: 3.30pm

Title: Formative Assessment

Led by: James Crane

Registration here

You can view the recordings from last year here:

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Bright Spots – Metacognition

Metacognition is notoriously tricky to implement and by extension tricky to uncover in action. However, as part of our continued efforts at Durrington to make metacognition part of teachers’ habitual practice and students’ everyday thinking I have been dropping into lessons this week. My purpose was to see what examples of metacognition I could uncover. Below are some of the bright spots I found:

In year 7 geography Evie Steele was completing a recap quiz at the start of the lesson. The metacognitive element here came through the questioning of students regarding their answers. Evie asked the students how they had arrived at the answers they gave. This required the students to reveal their thought processes and thereby consider where the knowledge came from and how they knew what they knew. Part of metacognitive regulation is evaluating your knowledge in order for you to know your relative strengths and weaknesses, this sort of questioning helps students to build that.

Dropping into Lucy Wakeling’s year 9 Spanish lesson I found students completing a vocab translation task from memory. What was interesting here was having conversations with the students about their relative confidence and competence with different words. Some of the students I spoke to were able to recognise the reasons they found the cognates easier to translate than other words. They were also able to explain why they found certain words harder to remember for reasons such as lack of use or complex meaning. Here the students were not simply saying “I’m rubbish at Spanish” but able to identify and explain they specific reasons for success and failure with the task.

In science Alex Mohammed was teaching year 10 about drugs trials. Alex was taking the class through the various stages that drugs go through before they are released for public use. During his explanation Alex was asking the students a number of questions. In this class Alex has fostered a culture of interrogation and enquiry. The students were not simply accepting the knowledge offered and making notes, but asking Alex deeper questions as to the reasons for certain parts of the process, potential pitfalls and “what if” scenarios. The metacognitive element here is that these students were thinking deeply about the knowledge, connecting it to existing knowledge and assimilating it into schemata. By doing so they were increasing the chances that they would remember it accurately.

Year 8 were preparing for an assessment during Maddie Foster’s English lesson. This type of lesson often lends itself naturally to the explicit teaching of metacognitive strategies. This is because the teacher is often trying to develop procedural knowledge in students, and this process is made easier by explicitly teaching metacognitive strategies that give a structure to these procedures. In this case the metacognitive procedure had already been taught in a previous lesson; how to deal with a quote using a what, how, why approach that would in turn structure the writing to follow. Maddie was able to ask students about this strategy and they were able to confidently articulate the procedure. Here then was the students demonstrating knowledge of particular strategies that would help them with a particular type of extended writing.

In maths Jamie Veness was spending some time with year 10 recapping various question types. Speaking to one student I found he was able to confidently articulate the strategy he was using and why it was effective. Interestingly, when Jamie gave the answer to the question this student had not given a complete answer. He had the right answer but not to the right “significant number”. This then led to a discussion as to why a “correct” answer could be wrong. Here then is an example of where a student may build their own metacognitive regulation. Through a structured evaluation of where a task has gone wrong, students can be taught to self-correct similar mistakes in the future.

In year 9 music Max Gasson was helping students to read music. He had given students two strategies with which to identify notes, both mnemonics that many of us would recognise. However, he also asked students if there was a simpler way to identify the notes. Here he was leading students to look for repetitions to avoid having to work out each note individually. Drawing out this realisation from the students helped them to evaluate the strategies they were using rather than using them simply because they were given the instruction to.

Chris Runeckles

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Weekly Round Up: 9th January 2022

Blog of the week

Being a Form TutorJoe Kinnaird

The role of a form tutor is a key one in secondary schools.  In this blog Joe shares what he thinks makes an effective form tutor.


New Year – Thinking About Professional DevelopmentShaun Allison

A brief summary of the mechanisms of effective professional development from the EEF guidance report.

Research School Blog

Responsive Teaching in Turbulent TimesChris Runeckles

With students regularly in and out of lessons, how can we continue to effectively judge their strengths and weaknesses?

Other Useful Links

Recent Posts

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New Year – Thinking About Professional Development

Now we are back at school and into the new year, many of us will have been thinking about a renewed focus on our teaching (or that of the team we lead) and how we can be supporting the development of this through highly effective professional development. The EEF have made this easier for us, with the publication towards the end of last year of their Effective Professional Development guidance report. There are many things that this report can be applauded for, but one of the most useful aspects is the focus on the ‘mechanisms’ of effective CPD. There are 14 of these mechanisms divdided into four groups. They provide a really useful framework for leaders to use when reviewing their current CPD provision.

Whilst I strongly recommend you read the whole report, this blog will give a brief overview of each of the mechanisms.

Mechanism 1: Managing cognitive load

When presenting new information as part of professional development—when teaching teachers new knowledge—careful thought should be applied to managing the cognitive load of participants. To avoid ‘overloading’ participants, programme developers and deliverers should either:

• remove less relevant content;
• focus only on the most relevant content;
• vary their presentation via the use of multiple examples; or
• employ strategies such as dual coding—the combination of verbal and visual instruction.

Mechanism 2: Revisiting prior learning

Another important consideration when structuring the knowledge taught to teachers in PD is the relationship with previous and future learning. PD is more likely to be effective where designers:

• revisit previous topics or techniques later in the programme;
• quiz participants on information provided in past sessions; or
• use tasks that require teachers to draw on past learning.

Mechanism 3: Setting and agreeing on goals

Across a variety of behaviours, reviews have demonstrated that setting goals substantially increases the likelihood of behaviour change.21 When conscious, specific, and sufficiently difficult goals are set, they make it more likely that performance will improve. It may therefore be fruitful for professional development facilitators to set or agree upon specific goals for teachers to act on.

Mechanism 4: Presenting information from a credible source

Where information is derived from impacts how motivated teachers are to use it. The more credible the source, the more likely they are to change their practice. PD facilitators should, therefore, think carefully about how they present and make the case for a particular change in teacher practice. Useful methods that make teachers more likely to follow suit may include:

• supporting a suggestion with published and robust research;
• featuring a prominent education academic to advocate for a change; or
• using an expert teacher to promote a particular practice.

Mechanism 5: Providing affirmation and reinforcement after progress

Providing affirmation and reinforcement after a teacher has made an effort to alter practice—or shown progress in performing a new skill—may improve teachers’ motivation to act upon professional development. This should come after the change has been attempted (rather than before).

Mechanism 6: Instructing teachers on how to perform a technique

Of course, at the centre of any effective professional development programme there is likely to be the delivery of well-thought out, clear, and guided instruction, which supports teachers in developing effective techniques. As discussed in Recommendation 1, this should be underpinned by evidence and drawn from trusted sources.

Mechanism 7: Arranging practical social support

In various contexts, both within and beyond teaching, peer support may support development. Peers often share a common language, culture, and knowledge regarding the problems they face and are often able to provide emotional or informational assistance that supports a trainee in improving their practice. PD that arranges social support is, therefore, more likely to improve pupil outcomes and this could be offered using a variety of methods. For instance:

• support could be provided via a coaching relationship, where an expert coach provides peer support and assistance;
• it could be offered via regular conference calls between a number of participating teachers who could discuss how they are finding the PD programme and
• at the most basic level, it could just be a programme requiring at least two teachers from each school, phase, or department to participate in training so that, subsequently, these colleagues can support each other throughout.

Mechanism 8: Modelling the technique

Modelling is the provision of an observable sample of performance, either directly in person or indirectly (via film or pictures), for a teacher to reflect on or imitate. This can support in learning a technique.

Mechanism 9: Providing feedback

Monitoring the performance of participants and offering feedback to support their improvement may also support better professional development outcomes and subsequent pupil performance. Supportive observations, with formative feedback, should be clearly differentiated from notions of high-stakes lesson observations linked to appraisal targets.

Mechanism 10: Rehearsing the technique

Prompt practice and rehearsal of a technique, at least once in a context outside of the classroom, may support teachers in enhancing their skills and embedding habits.

Mechanism 11: Providing prompts and cues

To ensure that teachers continue to alter and improve their practice, PD may choose to provide a series of prompts and cues that nudge and remind teachers to carry out certain behaviours.

Mechanism 12: Prompting action planning

Action planning is where a teacher plans how they will perform a technique, and their plan includes at least one of the context, frequency, duration, and intensity of the technique. It can include lesson planning, where teachers may attempt to use a technique learned in PD, in a specific lesson.

Mechanism 13: Encouraging self-monitoring

PD may be more effective if it establishes a method whereby teachers can monitor and record their own performance. For instance, teachers could be provided with reflective journals where they record their actions towards a specific goal and reflect on the success of them.

Mechanism 14: Prompting contextspecific repetition

The final mechanism involves teachers rehearsing and repeating behaviour in the same context as it would usually be delivered—in the classroom. Repeating the same action in the classroom, at least twice, can support the embedding of practice.

Below is a video of Fran Haynes talking about this guidance report.

Shaun Allison

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Weekly Round Up: 3rd January 2022

Blog of the week

Catalyse Learning Using SchemasSarah Cottingham

A really useful exploration of schemas and how an understanding of them supports better teaching.


‘Using chanting to increase motivation and practise key vocabulary’ by Zofia Reeves.

Research School Blog

‘The use of mini-whiteboards in the classroom’ by Deb Friis

Other Useful Links

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Using chanting in classrooms to increase motivation and practise key vocabulary

Recently, I have been trying to encourage some of my classes to chant things all together as a means of prasticing key vocabulary and increasing their engagement in lessons. Whilst it is quite tricky to ensure that all students get involved, I have found that the majority do join in and it can be a fun way to get everyone involved with little to no preparation.

In year 7, I have been teaching properties of 2D shapes which involves a lot of vocabulary that students need to be fluent in. We have been covering words such as; parallel, perpendicular, vertices/vertex, edge, congruent, similar, intersect. In order to get the students fluent with these words, I have been beginning sentence stems and pausing to get them to chant the missing words. Sometimes the sentences encourage them to remember the key word and other times I will use the key word in a sentence and get them to chant the missing characteristic.

Here are some recent examples I have used:

“Two straight lines that, when extended, will never intersect are called… [parallel lines]”

“We can describe two lines that intersect at right-angles as… [perpendicular]”

“Perpendicular lines intersect at a… [right-angle]”

“Vertex is the mathematical name for a… [corner]”

I have found that this strategy works particularly well when teaching negative numbers and indices laws, for example:

 “Adding a negative is the same as…[subtracting]”

“Subtracting a negative is the same as [adding]”

“Multiplying two negatives together makes a…[positive]”

“Anything multiplied by zero is…[zero]”

“Anything to the power of zero is…[1]”

“1 to the power of anything is…[1]”

There are of course some drawbacks to consider; some students will struggle to process the sentence in time to respond with the correct word. To combat this, I tend to repeat the sentence in full after getting them to chant it so that all students hear it at least twice. In addition, sentences have to be carefully constructed to ensure misconceptions are not being embedded. For example, getting students to chant “two negatives make a positive” becomes problematic when students are not confident at where that rule applies. All sentences need to be specific and mindful of any misconceptions that could arise.  

Once established, the students get used to chanting and I have found that they generally seem to enjoy getting involved. It also provides me with some level of whole-class assessment. Sometimes none, or very few, of the students respond which helps me think about my next teaching steps and what I need to prioritise in my upcoming recall starters. Overall, I have found this strategy to be an effective way to recall key facts and definitions when teaching a topic for the first time, but also as a way to check prior knowledge and ensure I am frequently returning back to the key concepts once I have moved on to a new topic.

Zofia is a Maths Teacher and Research Associate at Durrington High School


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Weekly Round Up: 12th December 2021

Blog of the Week

Teaching Oral Reading Fluency to Older StudentsTimothy Shanahan

This blog contains some really useful activities that teachers can use to help build reading fluency.


‘Means of Participation’ by Fahim Rahman

Fahim reflects on how he has been developing his practice, by being more explicit about his instructions.

Research School Blog

‘Teaching Reading Fluency at secondary School’ by Fran Haynes

Fluency instruction isn’t just beneficial for younger students.  It can go a long way in supporting reading at KS3 and KS4 too.

Other Useful Links


Date: 18th January

Time: 3.30pm

Title: Formative Assessment

Led by: James Crane

Registration here: 


You can view the recordings from last year here:

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Means of Participation

This term marks the first term that I have had trainee teachers take some of my classes. When giving them feedback, a similar reoccurring area of development arises – careful consideration of planning explanations as well as the explicit use of language when giving instruction.  This is quite fitting considering my own focus as part of my instructional coaching this term is the very same thing.

In observations of their teaching, being sat among my students in the back of the room, like some trojan horse infiltrating their domain, I see an insight into their perspective, and things I have taken for granted in my own practice, especially the value of the explanations and instructions given to them. For a teacher such as myself who predominantly teaches GCSE students, I often take the students own intuition for granted when giving instructions.  Year 10 and 11 students are usually better trained and have a better understanding of your practice and routines, so they already know what they must copy from the board and what is necessary and what is anecdotal. However, the value of contemplating one’s language when giving instructions has had a large impact on my KS3 classes.

One strategy I have incorporated comes from Doug Lemov’s Teach like a champion 2.0: Means of participation. Too often, especially with KS3 classes, where you’ve carefully considered your questioning, contemplated your pause time, remembered to ask the question first before targeting your student, all the recipes for good questioning… only to have the answer called out from your most enthusiastic student. Ruining the suspense and gravitas that comes with good questioning. The same student who wonders why instead of being praised for his excellent recall; he is being reprimanded for calling out.

Means of participation seeks to solve this issue, by clearly and explicitly telling students the criteria for participation beforeasking them a question. Instead of “Who can tell me what organelles are present in an animal cell” rephrasing the question to “By putting your hands up and not calling out, who can tell me what organelles are present in an animal cell?”. By doing this it gives clear and explicit boundaries for what is required for engaging in this part of the lesson. You are explicitly telling the students what behaviour you are looking for and using it as an invitation to participate in your lesson, helping to embed the behaviour until it becomes permanent.

By acknowledging the means of participations first, “Without putting your hands up, I’m going to ask someone, what is the function of ribosomes…” you are setting clear instructions for what students can expect to do to answer the next question, that those who do put their hands up will not be asked, and those who are not wishing to engage, are susceptible to being selected for this question. By giving the means of participation first, teachers also gain a more subtle way to challenge individuals who deviate from the instructions: by reminding pupils of the expectation previously mentioned. “Hands up, without calling out, who has the answer to number one”. If a student does call out, simply stating, “I did ask for you to put your hand up and not call out” this enables you to use polite and non-invasive interventions to reinforce expectations.

I have further adapted and incorporated this strategy into my non-questioning phases of the lesson. By giving simple explicit instructions before their task, I am giving them the means to participate with this portion of the lesson and ensure I have students fully understanding how to engage with what I have presented them.  

By writing down the question first, can you answer the question on the board”

By working in silence, answer your starter questions on the board”

One member of your group, by walking carefully, go get the equipment needed to start your practical”  

This intervention, particularly with my KS3 classes, has enabled a much more settled atmosphere to my lessons. It has set clear expectations of the behaviour I am expecting and given me clear boundaries that allow me to easily set sanctions when those boundaries have been crossed. It also ensures that students are clear on what they are expected to do, and if I think they are not sure, I can follow up with questions to reiterate what I’m expecting.

By working in silence. Answer your starter questions on the board while I do the register” …
“Alex… What am I expecting you to do, for these questions?”

By copying the paragraph on the board, fill in the missing words” …
“Sam, how are you going to complete the task on the board?”

I have also found that by implementing this strategy it has become easier to ask follow-up questions. When the means of participation has not been clear, and several students have called out for the answer. It makes it much more difficult to ask another (or the same) student to develop or expand upon the answer given.

By putting your hands up, what group does this element belong to?” then, with a follow up question “can you give me another example of an element in that group?” 

By incorporating this simple addition to my practice, it has enabled me to not only create the appropriate culture in my class but has enable me to better establish what my expectations are for my students. It has made my KS3 students understand the clear boundaries for what is accepted in my class, I am seldom having to repeat myself or find myself frustrated that students have not grasped what I have asked them too. It has also enabled me to appreciate how the instructions that I have given are ambiguous and therefore causing more hurdles than my explanations have removed. It has provided a platform for the more reserved students to engage without being drowned out. By setting clear expectations that are public for all. It has ensured every student has equal footing in my class, that the two or three students calling out are not masking the 10 students who don’t understand. As well as helping those who are following and engaging with the lesson, to have the best possible environment to do so.

Fahim Rahman

Research School Associate.

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Weekly Round Up: 5th December 2021

Blog of the week

‘How Cognitive Load Theory Changed my Teaching’Zach Groshell

A fascinating insight into how what we have learnt from cognitive science can reshape our teaching.


‘Disciplinary Literacy in Maths – Part 2: Vocabulary & Language’Deb Friis

A great example of how the maths team are thinking about their approach to disciplinary literacy.

Research School Blog

‘Tackling Educational Disadvantage’Shaun Allison

What have we learnt this term from working with schools on tackling educational disadvantage?

Other Useful Links


Date: 7th December

Time: 3.30pm

Title: Metacognitve questioning & modelling

Led by: Chris Runeckles

Registration here: 

You can view the recordings from last year here:


We are looking to grow our team of Evidence Leads in Education (ELEs).

If you are passionate about evidence informed teaching and would like to work with the Durrington Research School team to support other school leaders in West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove to use evidence to drive their school improvement, take a look here:

Please share with anyone who you think may be interested.  Any questions, please email Shaun Allison – 

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