Wednesday, 31 July 2019


It's time to celebrate the success in writing my boys achieved over the past 2 terms, but the cherry on top for me was to celebrate the fact that one of my students(HP) who hated writing in March,(someone who refused to write his e-asTTle test in March in my class , and who had to do it under the guidance of the team leader) actually enjoys it now. He made progress up 2 levels in his writing from 2B in March to 3B in July. HP loves writing sentences using vocabulary words. There were days HP would refuse to go out for a soccer game( something he loves doing) just to complete writing his sentences. Another thing he loves doing is writing short paragraphs rather than long stories. By listening to my students , I have been flexible in allowing them to do work on paragraphs at a time and finally put them together. It has worked and it's such a great success story.


I was blown away at the huge progress in writing over the previous terms. It was something I could feel as pupils were happier to write, but to see the shift in writing levels, this was just so rewarding. The use of rich vocabulary( many from the list we worked on) was truly evident in the recounts they had written. 3 boys went up 1 level, another 3 boys went up 2 levels and finally 1 boy went up 4 levels. Full credit to the change in my teaching towards a spaced repetition method focusing on vocabulary building. I will wait anxiously to compare the improvement in vocabulary from the first test in March with the last one in November. Watch this space.


I looked at the data from my PAT vocabulary tests and seeing that my students didn't do well, I thought that I should look at the PAT reports and use the list of words from the test as a starting point.

I know that my focus is vocabulary, but now I am going to use spaced repetition to get my students successfully knowing what those words mean.

I created large flash cards with the words, and had sentences on another card. We would work each day with 5 words, making sure students could easily match word with meaning. I would then put them up on the classroom wall,(large enough for students to read) so that they has access to those words whenever they wanted to. Before introducing the new words, we would go over the previous day's words, and with smiles on faces, students would be thrilled to participate.

I worked through the Y5 vocab list first.

Once I was happy that my students showed confidence in the y5 list, I did the same with the Y6 list.

Furthermore, students had access to images and vocabulary prior to writing on topics as shown below.

Monday, 29 July 2019


 Using Spaced repetition with ESL students
by Steven Williams
How my approach to teaching vocab has evolved
Since coming to Spain two years ago (for my first non-summer school teaching job) my thinking about how we teach and learn vocab has been heavily influenced by two main sources. The first was Catherine Morley’s great talk ‘Bags of fun with vocabulary’ at the TESOL Spain conference in Seville last year, after which I introduced (and became entirely evangelic about) vocabulary bags into several of my classes. These are basically a way to ensure vocab is constantly revised in class, rather than consigned to a vocab notebook and left to rust, and also a great way to cut down on preparation time for warmers!  
by Steven Williams
I have also spoken to Dr. Rae Sialata, my former TESSOL lecturer and when I mentioned to her that I was considering using spaced repetition in my class, she was thrilled and sent me some more information. This being one of the important TESSOL principles, can be used in all teaching areas. She also referred me to Paul Nation who talks about spaced repetition in vocabulary acquisition.

Thursday, 25 July 2019


What was my teaching practice like before this inquiry?
I felt that I was doing a good job in writing and I was spending a fair bit of lesson time on vocabulary building before each lesson. I always felt that it is important that oral language  always precedes written language. Although I felt that I was doing enough to help students build a selection of appropriate vocabulary before writing, I now learned from the student voice that Vocabulary was still a big barrier to their writing, and I had a mission to change my teaching practice to make a difference.

What was the change?
I felt that I should have a closer focus on vocabulary, not only for writing lessons, but across the curriculum. When I began my Measurement strand, I prepared a word bank  of measurement vocabulary and to help students acquire the vocabulary, I added an illustration with each of the words. I used to mention the word and get students to draw the picture, and at other times, I would draw the illustration on the board and get the students to write the word it matches with.

Did it make a difference?
To begin with, my students loved the exercise of writing and drawing illustrations for the measurement vocabulary. Whereas previously I would merely put up and focus on the word and its spelling, here I was teaching them to make connections between the word and its illustration , which enhanced meaning. I could tell that students were understanding the measurement vocabulary and at the same time, without realising it, were learning to spell it.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019


Image result for student voice

I  summarised the student voice so that I could take note of what's preventing them from enjoying writing.
I noted the following:

  • Easily distracted from writing task
  • Don't like fixing my mistakes
  • Difficulty finding suitable words to put ideas together
  • Struggle to put ideas on paper
  • Cannot think of good words to use
  • Need help with ideas
  • Don't like writing more than 5 lines
  • Like writing some time, but dislike it most times
  • Reading is easier because the words are on the page, but with writing we have to find words to put on paper.
What stood out for me was the difficulty finding suitable words to use in their writing. The fact that they compared writing with reading, where the words are given in reading whereas in writing the student needs to put their own word on paper, gave me a lot to think about. How I can help students build a bigger vocabulary of words to use when posed with a writing task?
I totally agree that those are the barriers that prevent students from enjoying writing, but hearing it from my students, gave me good reason to break down those barriers, making it easier for them to write. 
I thought if I addressed vocabulary, other barriers may automatically be cleared, so my mission was to focus on vocabulary building.