"Being exposed to new words is important, but using them in authentic discourse is vital for lasting learning."
-Zwiers & Crawford, Academic Conversations

Academic Vocabulary Lists
By Grade Level

The words included on these lists are meant to be a starting point for tier-2 academic vocabulary. The list is not comprehensive, rather priority words for each grade level. The words selected were identified from a variety of references to meet the following criteria:
  • likely to appear across subject areas at multiple grade levels
  • help students express their academic understanding
  • essential for participation in academic discussions and writing
  • vital to comprehension of academic text
  • not typically used by students without explicit instruction

How can I assess the acquisition of vocabulary?

The assessment scales below were developed to support scoring students on the report card indicator: "Acquires and uses grade level vocabulary". Considering the shifts of the CCSS, it is important we consider tier-2 vocabulary in our assessment of students. Tier-2 vocabulary will support students mastering the standards, success on assessments, and college/career readiness.


Teacher Observation 
  • During classroom and small group discussion teachers can track evidence of students correctly understanding and applying academic vocabulary. For example, during Accountable Talk circle, a teacher may track students on their clipboard making inferences about the relationship between two characters. The words inference and relationship are both tier-2 vocabulary words.

Student Conferring
  • During student work time, teachers may pull students for individual conferences to track evidence of students understanding and applying academic vocabulary. For example, after reading two texts, teachers may ask students to compare and contrast two texts. Students could be asked to define in their own words compare and contrast. Students could be asked to cite text evidence to support their reasoning.