Following school closures, many schools will be focusing on vocabulary development as part of the recovery curriculum to help to close the attainment gap. If you are a tutor, you’ll find 20 engaging ideas to increase students' vocabulary and close the word gap in tutor time.

by Teachit's word gap team
24th August 2020



Tutors can help to close the word gap by inspiring students with a curiosity about words, by encouraging talking, sharing a love of books and reading, and having fun with words. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

Classroom displays 

1. Word wall. Create an interactive word wall of some unusual, tricky, intriguing or new words (neologisms) that are in the media – use sticky tack so that you can change and remove words. Add physical objects, news clippings or doodles for added interest and make the display 3D by creating easy, light shelves with jumbo lolly sticks and a glue gun (there are lots of YouTube guides on how to do this). Put a few students in charge of creating and updating the tutor group word wall.

2. Photo wall. Ask your tutor group to take photographs of unusual words they find outside of school. For example, a trip to the doctors is a rich opportunity to snap some images of tier 3 words.

3. Word of the day. Have a go at sharing a ‘Word of the day’ (or week) – but let students take ownership of the choices, display and exploration. Strive to make the words relevant to what’s happening in the world on that day. You could even add another layer by having a ‘verb of the day’ or a ‘adjective of the day.’

4. Graffiti wall. Create a graffiti style wall or window (using glass pens) in your classroom and ask students to add key words (from a provided list) using their own artistic flair. This works well if a few examples are completed first, using popular styles of graffiti.

5. Dynamic displays. Create your own tutor group word displays using word bunting or Frayer diagram templates. 

Word sharing

6. Word sharing. Remember that the students in your tutor group will have a vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to many adults. If you have a vertical tutor group, organise some structured time for students from different year groups to talk about their hobbies and interests. Students (and you!) can keep a record on any new or specialist words that emerge from these conversations.

7. Language lesson. If you have any bilingual or multilingual students in your tutor group, invite them to teach the rest of the tutor group a few unusual words from their language. Are there any similarities between different languages? Which words have we borrowed from other languages?

8. What’s in the news? Take a news article and sort it into a word doodle or similar - Wordsift.org offers a useful tool. You can then focus the students on the key words before you read the news – can they guess what the article will be about? Which words are unfamiliar?

9. PSHE knowledge organiser. If you are teaching PSHE to your form or tutor group, create a one sheet knowledge organiser with sections for words from tier 2 and 3. This will focus your teaching and give the students a handy guide to the key words.

10. Expert voices. Have a ‘talk like a specialist’ morning registration. This doesn’t need to be very serious and you can give the floor to those students who revel in a bit of early morning drama. The specialists could include film critics, scientists, historians, car salesmen, beauty expects etc. Encourage students to use complex vocabulary whilst they are in role.

Download all 20 ideas for closing the word gap in tutor time below: 






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