Every once in a while, I find some lesson or strategy or routine that fundamentally improves the learning in my classroom. One such routine is the systematic teaching of academic vocabulary words. Academic vocabulary are words that are routinely used in academic dialogue and text. They are the words that can often be found in questions/assessments for all subject areas and are scattered throughout standardized tests.
Long ago, during a guided reading group where I was working on writing structured responses to literary analysis questions in preparation for the NJ ASK, I discovered that, despite using the word
at least a million times frequently in class, my kids had no idea what the word “cite” actually meant. I thought back to how many times I mentioned or saw in directions “be sure to cite from the text to support your answer” over the course of the year. Time and time again these kids were being asked to “cite” but they had no idea what that meant they were supposed to do.
After a little research, I discovered the world of academic vocabulary and from that moment on, I taught these words to my students.
There are dozens and dozens of words that can be considered academic vocabulary, but after spending some quality time with our district’s reading and social studies series, I’ve narrowed the list down to the following words essential for middle school students: