1st Edition

New Words, New Meanings: Supporting the Vocabulary Transition from Primary to Secondary School

By Alice Deignan, Marcus Jones Copyright 2025
    180 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    180 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    When pupils move from primary to secondary school and start to study subjects in a more specialist way, they have to learn new and unfamiliar disciplinary languages, in each of the numerous subjects in their timetable. These new languages include new ways of presenting ideas, and hundreds, even thousands of new words as well as new meanings of words they think they already know.

    Based on a major research project, this book explains the nature of the language challenge students face in late primary and early secondary school and shows teachers how they can make the language of their subject more accessible for all students. Chapters explore the language of the classroom at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 using written and spoken language data from everyday classrooms. Also included are subject specific word lists and contextual examples for English, Maths, Science, History and Geography. Chapters cover:

    • How language use is shaped by topic, context, relationships and purpose

    • The language features of early secondary school

    • Key principles for selecting vocabulary to teach

    • Supporting pupils with disciplinary grammar and style

    • Ensuring a whole-school approach to language issues

    Full of practical tips to make the language of curriculums less daunting and more accessible for all students making the transition from primary to secondary school, this book will be valuable reading for teachers, educational support staff and school leaders working with children in late primary and early secondary school.


    Chapter 1 - A change of focus: From child to disciplinary student

    Chapter 2 - Language at secondary school: new registers, new words

    Chapter 3 - The academic vocabulary of early secondary school

    Chapter 4 - Vocabulary across subjects

    Chapter 5 – Polysemy: new meanings for old words

    Chapter 6 - Words in combination and context

    Chapter 7 - Selecting and teaching

    Chapter 8 - Making words work in the classroom

    Chapter 9 – Conclusion

    Appendix 1: The general academic vocabulary of KS3

    Appendix 2: Polysemous words



    Alice Deignan is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the School of Education, University of Leeds. Her research uses specialist computer software to analyse language. She has studied the academic languages of school, comparing years, key stages and disciplines.

    Marcus Jones is a secondary English teacher and experienced middle leader. He is also the literacy lead for Huntington Research School, part of the Education Endowment Foundation’s Research School Network. He has delivered literacy training and support to primary and secondary schools across the country.