Many educators have their gripes about Common Core. I’m no different.  My issue isn’t with what is being asked of the students, however, but with HOW it is being asked.  For example, eighth graders are asked to “delineate and evaluate the argument…”  Delineate?  Really? Or what about when students are asked to “analyze in detail.”  I always thought analyzing implied detail.

Last summer when I was preparing to go back to school, I took a long look at the Common Core ELA Standards for 6-8 grades.  Analyze, Trace, Evaluate – these are some of the terms that were tossed around.  I realized that a lot of these terms were words that I used in my own class, but I had never really taken the time to figure out what they truly meant.  When I asked students to analyze something – what was I trying to accomplish?  If I wasn’t sure what the difference was between analyzing and explaining, how could I expect that from my students?  And with Ohio implementing the PARCC exam that upcoming year, I had no idea what questions my kids would be faced with.  Would they lose points if they explained an argument instead of tracing it?  Was there even a difference?

I started making a list of those action verbs that stood out among the standards and decided to use them as vocabulary words.

Here is a free download of the list I gathered

I began by looking up each word (even those I thought I knew!) until I truly understood its definition.  After all, how could I ask my students to do something I didn’t even understand?

common core vocab
Here is an example of how I broke down each word, making sure to focus on the applicable definition

After I had the definitions down, I created examples of how each word could be used in context.  Next, I added my own notes section with little reminders and mnemonic devices to help remember each word.   I ended up a list of 20 words that I used for my 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. I quizzed them on 10 words each week, with a final test at the end. It did take a bit of time to create all of this, but it was worth it to have all of my vocabulary ready for the first couple of weeks of school.

Then came the most important part.  I had to actually use the words.  And I had to use them frequently and correctly.  If I wanted my students to understand the nuances that Common Core presented them with, I needed to give them opportunities to practice in class.

Overall, I was really happy with how this turned out.  In one of my earlier posts I explained how I break down Common Core Standards to make simplified “I Can” statements, and adding this vocabulary component helped make the standards even more accessible for my students.  I admit, there were some that I focused on more than others (I really tried to drive home the difference between analyze and explaintrace, on the other hand, I let fall by the wayside), but I felt better knowing that my students had at least been exposed to each of the words outside of formality of the Common Core Standards.

If you don’t feel like making your own definitions, examples, notes and quizzes – check out my product in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and let the work be done for you!