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Early strategies to support vocabulary storage and retrieval difficulties in the classroom

Pre and over-learning topic vocabulary

Choosing vocabulary

Select a ‘word of the week’. Choose the most important vocabulary items from the curriculum (identified on a weekly or half-termly basis).

Pre-learn vocabulary

Learn the words before they’re used in the classroom. This can be done individually or in a group.

Word of the week

Choose a word of the week that is focussed on in the class. The word could be displayed on a board with associated pictures as visual support and even a spider diagram or ‘word web’ filled out by the whole class together.

speech bubble with arrows pointing to paper


Repetition is crucial. Repeat the word in a variety of contexts in and out of the classroom.

Play general word finding games and activities to support word storage skills such as word association, odd one out.

Word webs

Use this template to over learn words:

  • talk about the sounds in the word
  • talk about what the word means
  • think about what other words are related to it
  • practice using the word in a sentence
  • draw a picture of the word or do an action for the word (if possible)

Visual support vocabulary mat

Create vocabulary mats for each table-top activity.

Clock face

Helping a child to find or use a word


Give them time (do not be afraid to leave a silence as they think of the word).


Ask them to describe the word such as, “What does it look like?”, “What do we do with it?” and “Where do we find it?”


Give them the first sound of the word for example, with ‘spanner’ say “sp…”.

Additional resources and information

A training module on strategies to support language learning.

Time: 45 minutes

Language Strategies for Vocabulary Teaching

This module is part of the VIP (Vocabulary Improvement Programme) training. You can access the full VIP training (modules 1-4) on Learn Sheffield.

This video demonstrates pre-teaching vocabulary to a whole class.

How you can help support children who struggle with talking and understanding words: Speech and Language UK

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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