As the summer holidays grow steadily closer, there is one thing in the minds of many children – their imminent transition to secondary school. A new school, new lessons, surrounded by new people; for any child, not least those with any kind of speech or language delay, this can be a difficult time. So how can we best help them to prepare?

One way we are championing this is to provide the children with exposure to vocabulary which they will likely encounter as they enter Year 7; arming them with confidence and helping them to start off on the right foot. This is also a great opportunity to spark conversation with your Year 6 children about their expectations, hopes and concerns for secondary school.

Let’s have a look at some key areas which you could discuss to introduce new vocab and prepare students for their big move…

1. The new environment:

I remember my first day at secondary school. Sitting on the dusty hall floor, I was bewildered as the announcement came that we were being sorted into ‘forms’. Having not the first clue what this meant, or what I would be expected to do as part of this ‘form’, understandably I felt rather panicked! As if the first day in a new place isn’t scary enough, children really don’t need the addition of new terminology which leaves them confused or anxious; feeling prepared will make the experience a much smoother one. This is where exposure to keywords about the new school environment is essential. I mean, who necessarily knows that a tutor is exactly the person that I would have called a ‘teacher’? How should I know that being awarded a merit is a good thing and isn’t tantamount to a telling-off? Or that I am not only in a form, but also a house (which is different again), and that chunks of my day will now be called periods? If you can, having the child’s specific school in mind may mean that you are able to tailor the vocabulary, and depending on the child’s likely interests or needs you might want to look at other ideas such as student support, cashless catering, or the school principal.

2. Organisation and management:

We all know that, when it comes to managing the change in workload and lesson structure, organisation is absolutely key in keeping on top of things. Unsurprisingly, so is an effective understanding of the expectations placed upon you, and confidence in knowing how to approach or access tasks. Words such as ‘deadline’ will be key here because a child can’t possibly be expected to do what is required of them unless they fully understand the task and the timescale. Other vocabulary which may be completely new to your children are things like homework diary, moodle, and portal.

3. The school commute:

Many children will be facing not only the prospect of a new school, but also a new journey to school which could well be undertaken independently. Timetable, pass, ticket, ticket inspector, and valid; these are all handy words for the school commuter’s dictionary. Alongside this, arm them with etiquette and handy tips, such as scooting over to allow someone else to sit next to you when the bus gets busy, or how to decide on a place to ring the bell every day in order to make sure you get the right stop while giving the driver enough warning.

4. Lessons and equipment:

Acronyms in secondary school are very commonplace and are areas where confusion can really manifest. It’s worth having a little look over the common ones, such as:

MFL = Modern Foreign Languages

DT = Design Technology

FT = Food Technology

RS = Religious Studies

As if the acronyms weren’t enough, the new terms don’t end there! Humanities, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, General Studies- these are all potential new words that leave the child none the wiser as to the lesson content. And where did the teacher say the lesson was? The Learning Resource Centre? C Block? Or perhaps the Science Lab?

Even when we get our heads around what and where our lessons are, the sheer volume of new equipment and terminology can be overwhelming. This is a vast, vast area and so you will want to pick the really relevant words for your children, but some examples might be: Bunsen burner, tripod, test tube, protractor or compass.

We would love to hear from you…

Get in touch and let us know what your thoughts are on vocabulary for transitioning Year 6s. We would love to edit this blog with all your input to share knowledge across our network of Teachers, TAs, SENCos and Senior Leaders. And remember, this approach can be applied in every year if you feel your children would benefit from some transitional preparation, it doesn’t just have to be your Year 6 class.

Speech and Language Link support a whole school approach to speech, language and communication needs. We support pupils’ communication needs from early years to secondary age, working with schools, speech and language therapists, local authorities, MATs and parents/carers. We believe that SLCN should be supported at every stage of a child’s life, transition being a key part of this.

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