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Common Core Vocabulary

Tier 1, 2, and 3 Words for Common Core

Not all words require instruction equally:

  • Tier 1 – Basic Words – Most cannot be demonstrated and do not have multiple meanings, but students will need to know them. Sight words would be found at this level. 
  • Tier 2 – Words occur in high frequency. Found in a variety of domains.
    • Criteria:
      •  Importance to understanding the text
      • Characteristic of mature language users
      • Used across a variety of domains
      •  Potential for building rich representations of the words (multiple meaning words 
      • Words that allow students to provide precision and specificity in describing the concept
      • Words like: merchant, tend, fortunate, maintain, required, performed, benevolent
  • Tier 3 – Words with a low frequency of use, often limited to special, specific domains. They are best learned when a specific need arises. (Content area words) Words like: igneous, metamorphic, Revolutionary War, economics

Example of how to choose tier two and three vocabulary: 
      The solar system consists of the sun and all the planets and other bodies that revolve around the sun.  Planets are any of the primary bodies that orbit the sun.  Scientists have long debated the origins of the solar system.  In the 1600’s and 1700’s, many scientists thought that the sun formed first and threw off the materials that later formed the planets.  But in 1796, the French mathematician Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace, advance a hypothesis that is now know as the nebular hypothesis.
      From: Holt’s California Edition of high School Earth Science textbook & Sandi Yellenberg
Blue words: Tier 2 Yellow words: Tier 3

            As you read a text pick out words that would confuse your students that are not subject specific. These words are your tier two words.  Words that are subject specific are your tier three words. It is important for educators to understand with the new common core standards that there are not a sets of tier two vocabulary lists. Students will need to understand how to decode and use context clues to be able to read unfamiliar text that they will encounter. Tier three words are subject specific. Therefore educators will be able to create lists of words. For example, I teach reading and a few of my tier three words would be: theme, setting, plot, character, etc. I am currently working on resources for grades 3-6 for professional development for my district and will be sharing them with all my readers. 

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