Vocabulary Banking

A strategy for boosting vocabulary and reading comprehension at KS3

Description of the innovation

Pupils were provided with A5 booklets called Word Banks in which to collect words that they thought they could reuse in other contexts and subjects across the curriculum. Each banked word secured a point, and pupils were able to secure a bonus point for each word that was successfully reused in another context or subject. Pupils used their word banks in English, history, geography, religious studies, and citizenship. Pupils were asked to underline reused words so that teachers could praise and reinforce the effort.

Summary of the evaluation

The evaluation took place in an urban co- educational Roman Catholic secondary comprehensive for two terms. Participating pupils were in Year 7 and 8 at the start of the innovation and Year 8 and 9 at the end, because the project spanned the summer holiday. Five high prior-attaining sets participated in the evaluation, with three in the intervention and two in the control group.

The Hodder Group Reading test was used as a pre- and post-test to provide a measure of reading comprehension progress. In addition, pupils completed a simple Likert scale survey before and after the innovation to measure attitudinal responses to vocabulary, active reading strategies and word banking.

Summary of findings

On average, the 80 high prior-attaining pupils in the intervention group improved their standardised scores by 7.5 points. In contrast, the 48 control pupils’ scores increased by an average of 2.4 points. The overall effect size was +0.56, +0.76 for boys and +0.40 for girls. The 18 pupils who were deemed ‘High participation’ because they successfully managed to bank and recycle more than 500 words, increased their average score by 13.5 points. The findings suggest that high prior-attaining pupils who successfully develop the self-regulatory impulse to hone in on adjectives and verbs while making evaluative judgements on their transferability make rapid progress in their ability to infer or ‘read between the lines’ of increasingly challenging texts.


Lead school      

  • Bishop Challoner Catholic College

Main findings           

  • The overall effect size was +0.56
  • +0.76 for boys and +0.40 for girls

Download the protocol document