‘The size of a child’s vocabulary is an accurate predictor of academic achievement and even upward mobility over the course of a lifetime’ Hirsh 2013.


There are three tiers of vocabulary that encompass all the words we can learn.

Tier 1 words are those words used in everyday speech that pupils generally have in their long term memories e.g. table, clock, run, food, drive.

Tier 2 words can have multiple meanings in different contexts. Tier 2 words need to be explicitly taught.

Tier 3 words are those that are more specific to content areas e.g. photosynthesis.


Beck, McKeown & Omanson (1987) developed the concept of ‘word tiers’. This can help us select target words to teach.

Tier 3 words: low frequency, highly specialised, domain-specific, e.g.pyroclastic, fascism, photosynthesis, and rare words.

Tier 2 words: more frequently occurring, e.g. sensitive, significant; characterise written text - not so common in everyday conversation; include words with wide application in different contexts across different domains - have ‘high utility for literate language users’ - and it’s these that are particularly good for explicit instruction.

Tier 1 words: everyday, basic, familiar; typically appear in oral conversations so children often exposed to them at high frequency from early on.


We have developed tier 2 and 3 vocabulary. Here are our progression charts...

Tier 2 vocabulary progression...
Tier 3 vocabulary progression...