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2015 ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence

2015 ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence

June 2628, 2015
Nashville, Tenn.

Invest in the power of great instruction and learn how to leverage it in classrooms and school districts.



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Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement

by Robert J. Marzano

Table of Contents

Chapter 6. Defining an Academic Vocabulary

One of the characteristics of effective vocabulary instruction as described in Chapter 4 is a focus on terms that are important to the content presented in school. By definition, this is a critical aspect of any program that seeks to develop academic background knowledge through direct vocabulary instruction. If we select terms that do not relate to specific academic subjects as the target for instruction, we cannot expect much of an effect on academic background.

As noted in Chapter 4, terms taken from lists of high-frequency words are probably not the best source of target words for direct instruction. How frequently words appear tells us little about their difficulty and nothing about their relevance to specific subject areas. This chapter describes the process that was used to identify the subject area terms in the Appendix and contrasts them with those from previous efforts.

Another Look at Frequency Lists


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