Pre Teaching Vocabulary (PTV)

Pre-Teaching Vocabulary (PTV) provides a structured and principled approach for teaching children how to learn new words.  It is particularly effective for teaching children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

PTV aims to support existing teaching methods for word learning and to hone and develop teachers’ existing vocabulary learning strategies. It provides teachers and children with a practical framework upon which to develop critical thinking skills and tools for independent word learning.

PTV encourages a focus on the key ‘goldilocks’ words needed by children to effectively understand the topics in their classroom.  It helps reinforce the importance of developing word knowledge to improve and enhance listening and future reading comprehension.

How it works:

PTV uses symbols and pictures from Communicate in Print (or CIP, see on visual prompt cards to teach children how to learn new words as a critical thinking tool for independent word learning.

Symbols and pictures encourage children to think about the different features of a word, which taps into, and develops, their semantic, phonological and perceptual word knowledge.

Visual prompt cards are presented in a variety of formats including A4 for use on the classroom wall or hangers.  An A4 desk top prompt ‘how we learn new words’ learning wheel/mat is also provided as a Word document. ( and all information how to deliver whole class and targeted session are provided within a PTV manual.

PTV principles are applied both across the whole class and in small, targeted intervention groups to support both children’s exposure to new words and their comprehension.

PTV helps evaluate the outcome of intervention through using a word learning score (WLS) procedure.

How it was developed:

The Pre-Teaching Vocabulary resource has been designed following many years of practical class-based work with children of all abilities and age ranges, in collaboration with specialist speech and language therapists, community speech and language therapists and teachers.

PTV has been proven to be highly effective for children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and for those with out-of-age related performance in terms of word knowledge and comprehension skills.

The principles of this Pre-Teaching Vocabulary resource lie firmly rooted in evidence-based practice. A synthesis and amalgamation of the key principles of vocabulary teaching and learning were carried out by the author as part of an MSc in Language and Communication Impairment in Children at The University of Sheffield in 2010.

The academic basis of the Pre-Teaching Vocabulary approach was published on SAGE online in January 2014 and in the journal Child Language Teaching and Therapy in October 2014.  (St. John, P.A. and Vance, M. (2014) “Evaluation of a principled approach to vocabulary learning in mainstream classes” Child Language Teaching and Therapy Vol. 30(3) 255-271.)

The connection between a child’s level of vocabulary and their future academic and life-long achievements is clearly established. It is therefore important to find ways in which word learning can be supported effectively in children with reduced vocabularies in mainstream classes and for those with SEND.

This primary PTV research was added to The Communication Trust “What Works” database in April 2014 and is now used in many schools across the country.



I am an independent education consultant based in the NW England and presently working within a number of Blackburn with Darwen schools. With over 30 years of teaching and consultancy experience I specialise in speech, language and communication and am passionate about vocabulary learning.

My role as specialist speech and language consultant teacher is

  • to ensure all children are supported to communicate to the very best of their ability, especially for those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
  • to improve children’s communicative skills through cultivating a legacy of professional awareness, knowledge to promote communication, speaking, listening and literacy skills.
  • to create the catalysts to improve children’s speaking and listening skills to underpin and promote effective understanding and comprehension.

The purpose of developing word knowledge and narrative skills is to use them to enhance listening and reading comprehension.

Vocabulary knowledge is the visible top of the iceberg – it drives comprehension and underpins its success. My work is built upon a strong evidence base, constantly mindful of the clearest correlations between deprivation and the vital language development that leads to reading. My task is to support and develop children’s speaking and listening regardless of their starting point to support the critical route to knowledge, creativity and confidence and make learning fun!

I can tailor a wide variety of individual learning and training packages for schools across a range of mainstream and SEN schools.

  • Language work to develop literacy in the classroom.
  • Vocabulary teaching and learning in all school settings using the Pre-Teaching Vocabulary resource.
  • Whole school approaches to SLC development and support (including the use of Black Sheep Speaking and Listening through Narrative).
  • Schools Direct and SCITT.
  • Talk Boost and Early Talk Boost (ICAN tutor).
  • Baseline SLCN assessments and SLCN training for Sencos.
  • Working in an EAL school.
  • Conference talks and workshops.

Professional and academic work
I am a founder member of the North West Network Speech and Language Group and also the secretary of the National Association of Professionals concerned with Language Impairment in Children (NAPLIC). I hold an MSc in Language an Communication Impairment in Children from the University of Sheffield. In April 2014 my Pre-Teaching Vocabulary (PTV) resource was added to The Communications Trust What Works database at the ‘indicative’ level.