Literacy across the Curriculum


Ms Tayo Amosu, Assistant Headteacher, Teaching & Learning 

The importance of vocabulary is undeniable. There is a high correlation between academic success and vocabulary size. In order to comprehend a text students need to know an estimated 95% of its vocabulary. If students do not adequately and steadily grow their vocabulary knowledge, reading comprehension will be affected.

To ensure that word learning is effective and targeted; we must meticulously plan explicit vocabulary instruction. Therefore teachers are using the three-tiered system to deepen students’ vocabulary knowledge and increase reading comprehension. Tier 1 words occur frequently in everyday life. They are words that we frequently pick up in everyday speech, for example, table, slowly, write, horrible. Tier 2 words appear across a range of subjects, students may read these words but may not use them often in every day speech.  For example, consequential, beneficial, analyse, evaluate and derive. Tier 3 words consist of technical, subject vocabulary specific words.  These include words such as osmosis in Science, trigonometry in Maths and onomatopoeia in English.

While students arrive knowing Tier 1 words, or they pick them up very quickly, Tier 3 words are covered in subject specific lessons in the main, however most research suggests that the explicit teaching of Tier 2 words makes the biggest difference. Because Tier 2 words can be applied to many topics, contexts and often have multiple meanings, the deep understanding of these words is most useful to students.

Consequently, a range of activities are taking place across the school and teachers are carrying out more explicit vocabulary teaching of Tier 2 words. Teachers continue to use tutor time to introduce powerful Tier 2 words with Words of the Week and 3pm threads, where students in Key stage 3 look at the etymology of words, and in lessons teachers are developing their vocabulary teaching using a vocab map when students are given the opportunity to not only learn the roots of key words, but also the synonyms and antonyms of those same words.

Below is an example of the Vocabulary Map which students may encounter in some lessons. It is designed to encourage students to have a more meaningful understanding of key words. However, key vocabulary may not always be presented in this way and students should recognise that the emphasis and teaching of key vocabulary may look different in different subjects across the school.

Parents can continue to support their young person by encouraging them to read for at least 20 minutes everyday and to read challenging books, which contain a range of vocabulary.  Research suggests that children should learn an estimated 2,000 words every year. 


For a full list of Avril Coxhead’s Academic Tier 2 word list please follow the link below:

David Didau – Closing the Word gap


Words. Words. Words.

Mr. Harriss, Assistant Headteacher, Key Stage 3

“Words. Words. Words,” replied Hamlet wearily when asked by Polonius what he was reading. And it can feel a bit overwhelming, like a thick fog when our language has an ever-changing word stock of anywhere between 750,000 and a million. For students, who must adopt a huge array of technical terms as well as writing down their thoughts eloquently, it must seem even more intimidating. 

Which is why, at Bishop Justus, we have been working hard to help our students to expand their vocabularies in the most efficient and effective way we know how. 

We have made some changes to the way that we introduce many new words in our teaching – a departure perhaps from the way that we ourselves were taught at school. Recent studies have suggested that we all learn new words more successfully when we have a deeper understanding of them – as opposed to learning just a word and its meaning in isolation. 

So this year, students have been briefed in assembly to expect a broader explanation of certain key words, and where they come from. They will still learn about a word’s semantic meaning, but in addition, they may well hear about a word’s etymology – the story or heritage behind it: the notion that many of our most high status words hail from the French Latinate side of our English character, not the lower status Anglo- Saxon side (think: interrogate, ascend, or consecrated as opposed to ask, rise or holy). Some words can even be traced back to an individual who invented (or ‘coined’) them – we have John Milton’s Paradise Lost to thank for words like ‘pandemonium’. Students enjoy discovering these hooks upon which to hang their knowledge, and that there are reasons why an ‘orange’ was once a ‘norange’, ‘grammar’ and ‘glamour’ are related, and why ‘Wednesday’ is so darned tricky to spell. 

Furthermore, students are aware that words have a morphology – stems can be added to with prefixes and suffixes to alter their meaning and grammatical roles. Teachers will help students to break these words down because we know that it helps students to understand more deeply, and equips them to figure out tricky words in the future. If you know the constituent parts, you can often make an educated guess at the whole meaning. 

We will be explicit about how such key words fit into the language by sharing synonyms and antonyms, because we know that this is better than learning a word in isolation – to know what you can substitute it for (or not) is to know a word much more deeply. Linguists often describe this as how words ‘network’ together. English words words words

And ultimately, we will challenge our students to move these words from their ‘passive’ vocabulary of simply understanding, across to their ‘active’ vocabulary by using them. We know that this deep word knowledge prepares students well for their examinations in many subjects as well as for university and life beyond. But more than that, it is a recognition that their language is theirs to own and to be passionate about. 

Knowing your own language is a question of your identity, and few, if any, people explain this better than the brilliant David Crystal. You might be tempted to read more from his Story of English in 100 Words from which the extract is taken… 


Miss Ferigan, Head of Literacy

Bishop Justus has always recognised and understood the importance of reading. We realise that reading regularly and interacting with a wide range of literature can enable students to be more confident, articulate and independent individuals. Research shows that reading for pleasure can promote better health and wellbeing, aids in building social connections and relationships with others (The Reading Agency, 2018) and is associated with a range of factors that help increase general levels of achievement.

Since September, our KS3 students have been following the ‘Eager Reader’ programme – an in-house scheme of learning that enables students to read for up to an hour every fortnight as part of an additional Literacy curriculum. Students are provided with a booklet (akin to the nature of a class exercise book) and complete this booklet during their lessons. It has target trackers in it, comprehension questions with space to discuss and answer these and additional vocabulary activities to enable students to interact with more advanced language on a regular basis. Topping (2010) found that students above the age of 11 were more likely to read a book that was ‘easy’ or below their average reading level. This prevents progress in reading and general achievement so we have created a book rota so that students choose their own reading book for one half of the year and for the other half, the book is chosen for them to ensure they are regularly reading books that are a challenge.

Our influence as adults, both in school and at home, has a huge impact on the students’ ability and levels of achievement in terms of reading. Having books in the home is associated with both reading enjoyment and confidence. Of children who report having fewer than 10 books in their homes, 42% say they do not like reading and only 32% say they are 'very confident' readers. For children who report having over 200 books at home, only 12% say they do not like reading and 73% consider themselves 'very confident' readers. Please encourage our students to read regularly both inside and outside of school, and to be using their Eager Reader booklets at home when possible.

Below is a link to a website which suggests 20 books all students should read before they leave secondary school, which may be of interest to you.

Book Reviews

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

By Rowan Bulpitt

32075671From a young age I have always been told books are better than films. (To be completely honest with you I have never agreed.) This is until the half term of October when the cinemas brought out The Hate U Give. My parents told me that if it wanted to watch the film I had to read the book. So that half term I invested most of my time reading as I was desperate to see the film. I definitely didn’t regret it! This book not only changed my understanding of American culture but it has also taught me about the injustice that can happen right under our noses. 

The book follows the story of Starr who witnesses one of her closest friends being shot by a policeman for no reason. Starr describes herself as living in a ‘black ghetto’ and attending a ‘white prep school’. This makes her feel an outcast in both societies. Although the book is based on Starr’s racial identify, it reflects all teenager’s insecurities in the way they promote themselves in different circumstances in their life. 

Thomas’ portrayal of Starr not only breaks your heart, as a child she is victim and shows the most vulnerable part of society; but also makes you fully invested in the cause that she learns to stand up for. The book follows the theme of finding your voice, using that voice if you have the opportunity and standing up for those who haven’t the chance. This message is so important in our society today for young adults as we as a collective are the next activists, politicians, lawyers, policemen and women who will make a change in our world for the better. 

I never thought it would be possible to be scared, angry and disappointed but also hopeful at the same time. Hope is what drives a movement for change, hope is what Angie Thomas brings out in the book. The hope for justice and peace; the hope for change in the corrupt society they live in; hope for our children and the hope that they will grow up safe and equal. Another concept brought through in the book is courage. This is the courage Starr had to stand up against inequalities and the gangs within her hometown to find a voice. One of my favourite lines states, “Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.” 

All in all, this book taught me that through all the hurt, all the pain, all the hate, we all have a voice and we have to use it to change this world. 


The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

The bone sparrowThe Bone Sparrow is a story with a dual narrative about a young boy named Subhi and a girl named Jimmie. Subhi was born and lives in an immigration detention centre with atrocious conditions that depicted from a child’s perspective. The infantile point of view emphasises the heart wrenching circumstances as Subhi navigates a childhood trapped within chain link fences and barbed wire, where food is scarce, and they live in fear of the guards – or the ‘jackets’ as Subhi and his friend call them. The horrific environment is overlooked by the outside world until he meets Jimmie, a girl from the other side of the fence, who shows a much innocence about the situation as Subhi and become friends through their stories.

This book is a must-read as not only is the story incredibly moving but also based on events that are happening every day. Fraillon replicates conditions of other immigration detention centres across the world, which mistreat and separate families. Subhi’s story is one of millions of immigrants forced to leave their homes and enter places unfit for living and unsuitable for a childhood.


Ghost Boys

By Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost boysThree of us have read this and we agreed that having the novel narrated in alternating perspectives (from dead and alive) is interesting and you get to know the character (and the events leading up to his death) a lot better. Moreover, the character of Jerome isn't specifically talented- he is just an ordinary 12 year old boy who enjoys football and looks after his family, which adds to the impact of the novel as he could be any kid with the potential to do anything, which makes his death more meaningful as it demonstrates how many innocent people are affected by gun crime. It could also emphasise the extent of institutional racism within the American police- the policeman in the novel shoots Jerome, a young black kid playing with a toy gun, because he feels 'threatened' by him and doesn't take the time to even get out of the car before firing his gun. Also, having the perspective of the policeman's daughter is really original- it's not often explored in literature and was insightful to see how she feels guilt on the behalf of her father.

Word of the Week

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