Academic Vocabulary

I really like reading The Answer Sheet.  The author, Valerie Strauss, posts every day on current topics in US education.  She also has guest authors contribute frequently.  The goal of the blog is to “-help parents get themselves and their children through their formal education–while staying sane.”

While I worry about why our education system is now one that parents have to work to stay sane in, I do like the broad range of topics she covers.

Today she put up this post on Academic Vocabulary and how the state of Tennessee is tackling vocabulary instruction.  There are several interesting links on her post, but you can click here to go right to the list of words by grade level.

These words seem to be ones that we probably think the students know, but in actual fact, they don’t.

I’m thinking of a conversation I had with a Grade 1 teacher today about a student saying they did not know what the word ‘cottage’ meant at the end of a fairy tale unit.  “How many times had they heard the word cottage during our unit and not know what it meant?”  Her guess:  many!

Tennessee provides an overview of what is considered best practice for teaching words like these here.

Readers, I know you are out there!  I’d love to hear from you.

  • What do you think of a list like this?
  • How do you teach these words in your classroom?

One response to “Academic Vocabulary

  1. Three thoughts: First, the method for having kids learn vocabulary sounds quite constructivist. Give the kids context and experience, and have them generate definitions and explanations. I like. Second, their list of words are very specific to their curriculum. Do fifth graders need to learn “commensalism” and “Hull House?” Perhaps in Tennessee. In the Tennessee curriculum. Third, their list wouldn’t make sense with our curriculum, but every curriculum has its own set of buzz words. And buzz words are power. Through high school on up to grad school, dropping buzz words was what set apart a vague response from that of a precise, sharp learner. I guess my question is, considering the TAS curriculum and standards and benchmarks, what would our list of academic vocabulary be? Would they empower our students?

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