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Academic vocabulary (also known as Tier 2 vocabulary) words appear in many different contexts and are subtle or precise ways to say relatively simple things, for example, “relative” or “accumulate.” The Common Core and other college- and career-ready standards emphasize regular practice with complex text and its academic vocabulary because academic vocabulary helps students access and understand increasing levels of complex texts across all content areas.
Academic vocabulary words are often vital to comprehension, reappear in many texts, and frequently are part of a word family or semantic network. Tier 2 words can carry disproportionate weight in conveying the meaning of a text, and a reader who doesn’t understand these high-value words might have his or her comprehension thrown off track—this is particularly true for English Language Learners (ELLs) who commonly have had less exposure to academic vocabulary. For these reasons, significant instructional attention should be spent on these words.
The challenge to teachers is to be alert to the presence of Tier 2 words, determine which ones need to be taught, and identify which words deserve more time and effort for richer understanding. The Academic Word Finder pulls the most useful academic vocabulary words from a given text.
This tool does not replace teacher judgment; rather, it helps to support the teacher and identify the most useful academic words. The Academic Word Finder produces a list of words that are uncommon enough that most students do not know them and are not so rare that they are not often found in texts). That said, there may be other academic vocabulary words that are either rare or common that a teacher determines are important to understanding the text. Research supports in-depth instruction on a small selection (6–8 words) for ELL students. You can find criteria to help you identify words for in-depth instruction here.
In addition, the academic vocabulary identified in a text can be a proxy for text complexity, though it does not replace the work a teacher does to fully analyze a text for complexity. Learn more about text complexity.
The Academic Word Finder is simple to use.
There are a variety of free resources available to support vocabulary development.
achievethecore.org’s digital tools and resources for teachers have been made possible by contributions from teachers across the country as well as through generous support from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the GE Foundation.
To learn more about Student Achievement Partners and for access to an array of free resources, please visit us at achievethecore.org.