Academic vocabulary found in text books and standardized tests can be just as challenging for students to understand in context as content-specific terms - sometimes more so.
What is academic vocabulary? They are words that...
- are common to all content areas.
- show relationships between content-specific terms (consequently, respectively, therefore, sequential).
- tell students what to do with concepts or information (synthesize, discern, differentiate, characterize).
- are common in academic texts, text books, and standardized testing.
What's a teacher to do?
Academic vocabulary controls the meaning of sentences, paragraphs, and questions. To help students comprehend academic texts, we must teach them academic vocabulary just as we would our content-specific vocabulary - explicitly, systematically, and intentionally. Otherwise, students may know the specific words of our courses, but they won't be able to figure out how they fit together or relate to each other.
Literacy Standards addressed through teaching academic vocabulary:
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grade-level texts and topics.
Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).
Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.
By the end of grade, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grade-level text complexity band independently and proficiently.