Basic Academic Vocabulary 

It’s important for English Language Learners to fully understand the basic academic vocabulary used in writing instructions and test prompts so that they know what they are expected to do.

Blackboard with the pdf title (Basic Academic Voc for Discussion, Writing, & Testing) & a quote: 'You cannot expect to succeed on assignments if you do not understand the directions'- Jim Burke

(As points out, quoting Jim Burke, “You cannot expect to succeed on assignments if you do not understand the directions." 

Burke’s A list helped guide my choice of the most important words to teach explicitly.)

Understanding basic academic vocabulary will also help students' reading comprehension and class participation. 

The lessons in this packet show the ways about 30 important verbs (and related nouns and adjectives, as well as a few lone nouns or adjectives) can be used.

The words appear first in short texts about the scientific method and essay writing.

They are practiced multiple times in example essays, task cards, and a crossword so students can see them in different contexts, use them themselves, and have a chance to really acquire them.

Key Vocabulary, Mainly in Order of Use 

analyze (including analysis & analytical), conclude/ conclusion, determine (etc.), evaluate, identify, interpret, predict (all from the Scientific Method essay, as well as bias, evidence, and valid from its glossary– not on cards).

The most basic verbs for instructions, in “Sharing Ideas”: demonstrate, explain, illustrate, describe, respond, integrate, develop (and in comparison essay) compare, contrast, similar, distinguish.

From "Essay Organization": organize, consequence, significance, persuade, argue, support, oppose, thesis, specific, transition, summarize, (& from Transitions practice: access), then imagine, imply (&related practice with infer), & transform from essay on Consequences/Proofreading practice.) 

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Basic Academic Vocabulary Lessons

Four task cards to practice forms of 'transition', 'summarize',& 'transform.'The cards have fill-ins or multiple choice questions, and pictures representing the words.sample task cards to practice vocabulary

Duration: about a week and a half (or more if you want students to write more than one essay. (There are links to some fantastic lessons for helping English learners learn to write persuasive essays.)

These lessons can help ELLs ease into essay writing, with some explanation of what is expected in an essay in English, then several example essays, practice with transition words and proofreading, before they need to write themselves.

Some of the Common Core standards addressed: CCSS. W8, 2 & 2c., 8.5, 9-10.2c & 5; L.8.4a, & L.9-10.4a.


  • Teaching Suggestions pg.3-6
  • Scientific Method 7-8
  • Scientific Method Quiz 9
  • Vocabulary Notebook Template- 10
  • Sharing Ideas: Talking vs. Writing- 11
  • Comparing Apples & Peaches- 12
  •  Essay Organization -13
  • Types of Transitions-14
  • Practice Transitions with a Comparative Essay: Advantages and Disadvantages o Online Learning (You might want to point out this could also be considered a persuasive essay, as it takes a definite point of view.)-15
  • 3-page Revision and Proofreading Checklist -16-18
  • Practice with Proofreading sample essay on Unintended Consequences (first the unrevised essay, then revised but still needing proofreading.)—2 pgs each 19-22
  • Optional Graphic organizers:
  • --Sample Essay Planning Template-23
  • --Venn Diagram-24
  • Task Cards, pages 25-35
  • Crossword-36 
  • Vocabulary Check (this could also be used as a pre-assessment, if you have some students that may not need most of these lessons.) -37
  • Answers:
  • Scientific Method Quiz Answers-38
  • Transitions Practice (Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning) Answers-39
  • Corrected (proofread) revised essay on the bomb with essay parts and transition words marked and a short example of a summary- 40-41        
  • Task Card Answers[7 pages]-42-49
  • Crossword Answers-50
  • Vocabulary Check Answers-51 

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If you don't need the task card vocabulary practice, you can get the rest of these lessons (which demonstrate the vocabulary but don't give all the word forms and gap-fill practice) in Basic Essay Vocabulary (for Classrooms)  on the English Essay Writing Practice page for $8.00.

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