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Common Core Standards Response to Intervention (RtI) Special Education ELL/ESL/Dual-Language Classrooms At Home Training

Common Core State Standards

Academic Vocabulary

What Is Academic Vocabulary?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) define academic vocabulary words as the words that are traditionally used in academic dialogue and text. Specifically, it refers to words that are not necessarily common or that children would encounter in conversation. These words often relate to other more familiar words that students use. For example, rather than watch, observe. They are also words that help students understand oral directions and classroom instructional dialog. They also help students to comprehend text across different content areas- including math, science, and social studies/history.

Academic Vocabulary

Vocabulary words are often categorized into three tiers.

Tier 1 words: These words are basic vocabulary or the more common words most children will know. They include high-frequency words and usually are not multiple meaning words.

Tier 2 words: Less familiar, yet useful vocabulary found in written text and shared between the teacher and student in conversation. The Common Core State Standards refers to these as “general academic words.” Sometimes they are referred to as “rich vocabulary.” These words are more precise or subtle forms of familiar words and include multiple meaning words. Instead of walk for example, saunter could be used. These words are found across a variety of domains.

Tier 3 words: CCSS refers to these words as “domain specific;” they are critical to understanding the concepts of the content taught in schools. Generally, they have low frequency use and are limited to specific knowledge domains. Examples would include words such as isotope, peninsula, refinery. They are best learned when teaching specific content lessons, and tend to be more common in informational text.

Why Is Teaching Academic Vocabulary Important?

Vocabulary’s link to comprehension has been extensively researched and the importance of directly teaching vocabulary has been firmly established. Unfortunately, in recent years the teaching of vocabulary has not been frequent or systematic in schools. The Common Core includes vocabulary instruction and reinforcement in the English Language Arts [ELA] standards. The standards dealing with vocabulary focus on “understanding words and phrases, their relationships, and their nuances and on acquiring new vocabulary.”

The Common Core ELA standards stress the need to provide direct and explicit instruction for academic vocabulary. When teaching vocabulary, it is best not to make students look up words in a dictionary or a glossary and write out the definition. They usually pick the first option, and it often isn’t the right one.

We recommend the 6 steps that Robert Marzano presents in his book Building Academic Vocabulary (2004).

Step 1: Teacher provides a description, explanation or example of the new term
Step 2: Students restate an explanation of the new term in their own words
Step 3: Students create a nonlinguistic representation of the term
Step 4: Students periodically do activities that help add to their knowledge of the vocabulary terms
Step 5: Students are periodically asked to discuss terms with one another
Step 6: Students are periodically involved in games that allow them to review terms

How Do Learning A-Z Resources Support Teaching Academic Vocabulary?

Vocabulary A-Z

Implement the teaching of General Academic Vocabulary with customized 5-day lesson plans on Vocabulary A-Z. Teachers can select words from lists to create a variety of customized lessons that address, support, and implement the teaching of general academic vocabulary. Our word lists are organized by grade level (1–6), and contain grade-appropriate words that are critical to understanding the concepts and content being taught in today’s classrooms and encountered in more complex texts.

Teachers can also chose from more than 13,000 words to create customized vocabulary lessons or choose from an extensive list of premade lessons. All of our lesson plans include five days of instructional worksheets as well as activities, games and an assessment specific to the lesson’s list of words. A cumulative assessment tool is also available to create customized assessments including words from various lessons.

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Reading A-Z

On Reading A-Z each Leveled Book Common Core Lesson Supplement features academic vocabulary words important to discussing the book. Words are listed whether they are used in the book or in the lesson plan to ensure students can be successful with the instruction.

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Science A-Z

The field of science is full of specialized content vocabulary, but students also must learn academic vocabulary terms such as analyze, compare, process, cycle, and pattern. Nearly every resource from Science A-Z contains academic vocabulary and can be used to teach these terms in context.

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Students engage in several activities to determine the meanings of words and phrases in context in Headsprout.

In Headsprout's early reading sequence, working with words, based on their meaning, is integrated into reading comprehension activities. For example, students develop understanding by reading sentences and selecting pictures that represent the meaning; reading passages and selecting pictures that represent the meaning (literal and inferential); reading sentences with missing words and choosing correct words to fill in the blank; reading sentences with multiple-choice text responses (often using new vocabulary words) and choosing the correct response. Working with words, based on their meaning and grammatical structure, is integrated into the context of sentence construction and meaning. For example, students construct meaning by creating their own sentence that is then animated to reflect the meaning of the sentence.

Headsprout's reading comprehension sequence extends this foundation and includes explicit instruction in both vocabulary words and strategies to derive the meaning of a word from its surrounding context. Vocabulary words are used throughout the program in multiple contexts, so students are exposed to and use the word multiple times. For example, a vocabulary word directly taught in one episode might be critical for answering a reading comprehension question in a later episode. Over 100 academic vocabulary words from different disciplines are directly taught and practiced throughout the program (e.g., prism, measure, preparation, legislative, government, federal, coastal, habitat, cycle, decompose).

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