Academic Vocabulary in Teacher Talk: Challenges and Opportunities for Pedagogy

  • Averil Coxhead ILOS, University of Oslo


This article focuses on the opportunities and challenges afforded by teacher talk in Grade Six (10 and 11 year old students) English as an Additional Language, Maths, and Science classes in an international school context in Germany. Teachers recorded their classroom discourse for one week of classes three times in one academic year in each subject. The data shows that high frequency vocabulary prevails in all three subject areas, and Science has a higher vocabulary load than the other two subjects overall. The amount of academic vocabulary, measured by Coxhead’s (2000) Academic Word List, and science vocabulary, measured by Coxhead & Hirsh’s EAP Science List (2007), were lower over the teacher talk than over secondary school textbooks. This means that teacher talk is lexically easier than textbooks. Over the course of the year, the vocabulary load of the teacher talk increases in all three subjects. This article looks at opportunities and challenges presented by the lexis of teacher talk in these subjects for second and foreign language students in these classes and their teachers. Suggestions for further research are presented by way of a conclusion.

Author Biography

Averil Coxhead, ILOS, University of Oslo
Researcher, Russian linguistics