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Academic Vocabulary is defined as words that are traditionally used in academic dialogue and text. These types of words are used to explain a concept; they are not necessarily common or frequently encountered in informal conversation.
Academic language (e.g., analyze, contract, factor, structure, minor) is used in classroom lessons, books, assignments, and tests, and students must become proficient in it to learn effectively in school and academic programs. It is central to building knowledge and conceptual understanding in specific domains such as science and math. Students need to understand the teacher’s explanations, discuss what they are learning, read academic texts, and write about their learning. Academic language also gives students the knowledge and skills to successfully navigate school policies and expectations.
Teaching Academic Vocabulary
Academic vocabulary instruction is important for ELL students, who may lack the vocabulary foundation for success in learning content-area subjects and reading academic texts.
Before students read text or learn new content, introduce key academic vocabulary that is critical to understanding. Elicit background knowledge, create conversation and connections, and display or point out the words so that students will recognize them. Teach words that have multiple meanings and apply to other content areas, and engage students in analyzing words to determine meanings (root words, affixes, etc).
How can academic vocabulary be developed using VocabularySpellingCity?
- Teachers can create their own custom vocabulary lists to focus on key concepts, or choose from the word lists on this page. Choose fewer words for instruction, but offer more in-depth study for each – especially those words students will encounter throughout their academic careers.
- Have students use Sentence Writing Practice and Paragraph Writing Practice activities to apply new vocabulary word knowledge, creating their own descriptions, explanations, or examples.
- Teachers can create Review Lists using a student’s incorrect words for extra student practice. Review Lists can also be used to identify student error patterns and understand where additional instruction is needed.
This grouping of word lists is based on the work of Dr. Averil Coxhead, which is a very useful resource for English for Academic Purposes teachers and learners.
Dr. Robert Marazano identified academic words from 11 subject areas and organized into four grade bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. These grade level specific word lists are based on that research. Each list is grade level appropriate and connects a subject area.
In today’s high-stakes testing, students taking these types of assessments are expect to read and understand words and phrase such as character trait and primary source which are found in directions and questions. This group has 15 word lists and each list has 8 words. Grades 1 & 2 use Lists 1-4. Grades 3-5 use all lists. Grades 6-8 use lists 7-15.
Common Core State Standards Related to Academic Language
Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
Academic Vocabulary List 2: explicit, trace, infer, theme, distinct, recognize, evident, evaluate, interpret, demonstrate
Academic Vocabulary List 3: integrate, comprehend, determine, develop, consist, contract, factor, indicate, issue, major
Academic Vocabulary List 4: identify, organize, refer, method, proceed, require, assist, similar, seek, section
Academic Vocabulary List 5: suggest, process, respond, concept, involve, feature, item, support, focus, conduct
Academic Vocabulary List 6: assess, benefit, synthesize, acquire, chapter, aspect, complex, consume, impact, invest
Academic Vocabulary List 7: final, significant, injure, maintain, normal, obtain, participate, design, positive, text
Academic Vocabulary List 8: secure, potential, transfer, select, source, previous, function, relevant, element, specific
Academic Vocabulary List 9: assume, context, establish, resource, survey, comment, constant, fund, layer, react
Academic Vocabulary List 10: valid, purchase, contribute, document, remove, volume, criteria, initial, outcome, interact
Academic Vocabulary List 11: exclude, imply, minor, link, alternative, range, perceive, available, strategy, role
Academic Vocabulary List 12: appropriate, restrict, component, coordinate, justify, partner, rely, proportion, task, specify
Academic Vocabulary List 13: consent, correspond, dominate, maximize, technique, register, sufficient, shift, sequence, publish
Academic Vocabulary List 14: access, commit, cycle, despite, emerge, implement, internal, investigate, option, retain
Academic Vocabulary List 15: series, project, occupy, concentrate, debate, attitude, phase, obvious, predict, goal
Academic Vocabulary List 16: status, domestic, adjust, attribute, prior, promote, resolve, conflict, contact, monitor
Academic Vocabulary List 17: pursue, target, version, expand, alter, aware, enforce, image, evolve, brief
Academic Vocabulary List 18: flexible, minimum, motive, reveal, transform, utilize, confirm, convert, foundation, identical
Academic Vocabulary List 19: insert, attach, band, enhance, diverse, generate, external, facilitate, decline, stable
Academic Vocabulary List 20: initiate, display, interval, rational, recover, transport, aid, eliminate, isolate, reverse
Academic Vocabulary List 21: submit, priority, challenge, unique, visible, prohibit, survive, definite, deny, transmit
Academic Vocabulary List 22: topic, comprise, neutral, abandon, clarify, conform, crucial, exhibit, inspect, random
Academic Vocabulary List 23: terminate, virtual, impose, annual, apparent, capacity, incorporate, guarantee, innovate, intervene
Academic Vocabulary List 24: simulate, release, ultimate, contradict, denote, detect, manipulate, predominant, uniform, anticipate
Academic Vocabulary List 25: attain, cease, coincide, duration, insight, mutual, portion, restrain, scenario, temporary
Academic Vocabulary List 26: violate, assemble, convince, encounter, intrinsic, acknowledge, civil, approximate, considerable, individual
Academic Vocabulary List 27: authority, distribute, environment, income, occur, policy, regulate, communicate, overall, amend
Academic Vocabulary List 28: consult, discrete, enable, emerge, expose, license, modify, perspective, reject, revenue
Academic Vocabulary List 29: sustain, trend, allocate, exceed, incentive, input, advocate, classic, couple, extract
Academic Vocabulary List 30: differentiate, successor, voluntary, accompany, accumulate, appreciate, displace, eventual, currency, radical
Academic Vocabulary Games
VocabularySpellingCity.com provides word lists, printables, and interactive games and activities that give students the opportunity to use academic vocabulary.
Try WhichWord? Sentences with an Academic Vocabulary list.