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Common Core Basics

Glossary of English Language Arts Terms

Here are 25 words and phrases that have a meaning unique to the Common Core State Standards.

domain-specific words and phrases: vocabulary specific to a particular field of study (domain), such as the human body: see Tier Three words.

editing: a part of writing and preparing presentations concerned chiefly with improving the clarity, organization, concision, and correctness of expression relative to task, purpose, and audience; compared to revising, a smaller-scale activity often associated with surface aspects of a text; see revising, rewriting.

emergent reader texts: texts consisting of short sentences comprised of learned sight words and consonant-vowel- consonant words; may also include rebuses to represent words that cannot yet be decoded or recognized; see rebus.

evidence: facts, figures, details, quotations, or other sources of data and information that provide support for claims or an analysis and that can be evaluated by others; should appear in a form and be derived from a source widely accepted as appropriate to a particular discipline, as in details or quotations from a text in the study of literature and experimental results in the study of science.

focused question: a query narrowly tailored to task, purpose, and audience, as in a research query that is sufficiently precise to allow a student to achieve adequate specificity and depth within the time and format constraints.

general academic words and phrases: vocabulary common to written texts but not commonly a part of speech; in the Standards, general academic words and phrases are analogous to Tier Two words.

independent(ly): a student performance done without scaffolding from a teacher, other adult, or peer; in the Standards, often paired with proficient(ly) to suggest a successful student performance done without scaffolding; in the Reading standards, the act of reading a text without scaffolding, as in an assessment; see proficient(ly), scaffolding.

more sustained research project: an investigation intended to address a relatively expansive query using several sources over an extended period of time, as in a few weeks of instructional time.

point of view: chiefly in literary texts, the narrative point of view (as in first- or third-person narration); more broadly, the position or perspective conveyed or represented by an author, narrator, speaker, or character.

print or digital (texts, sources): sometimes added for emphasis to stress that a given standard is particularly likely to be applied to electronic as well as traditional texts; the Standards are generally assumed to apply to both.

proficient(ly): a student performance that meets the criterion established in the Standards as measured by a teacher or an assessment; in the Standards, often paired with independent(ly) to suggest a successful student performance done without scaffolding; in the Reading standards, the act of reading a text with comprehension; see independent(ly), scaffolding.

rebus: a mode of expressing words and phrases by using pictures of objects whose names resemble those words.

revising: a part of writing and preparing presentations concerned chiefly with a reconsideration and reworking of the content of a text relative to task, purpose, and audience; compared to editing, a larger-scale activity often associated with the overall content and structure of a text; see editing, rewriting.

rewriting: a part of writing and preparing presentations that involves largely or wholly replacing a previous unsatisfactory effort with a new effort, better aligned to task, purpose, and audience, on the same or a similar topic or theme; compared to revising, a larger-scale activity more akin to replacement than refinement; see editing, revising.

scaffolding: temporary guidance or assistance provided to a student by a teacher, another adult, or a more capable peer, enabling the student to perform a task he or she otherwise would not be able to do alone, with the goal of fostering the student’s capacity to perform the task on his or her own later on (with prompting and support).

short research project: an investigation intended to address a narrowly tailored query in a brief period of time, as in a few class periods or a week of instructional time.

source: a text used largely for informational purposes, as in research.

standard English: in the Standards, the most widely accepted and understood form of expression in English in the United States; used in the Standards to refer to formal English writing and speaking; the particular focus of Language Standards 1 and 2.

technical subjects: a course devoted to a practical study, such as engineering, technology, design, business, or other workforce-related subject; a technical aspect of a wider field of study, such as art or music.

text complexity: the inherent difficulty of reading and comprehending a text combined with consideration of reader and task variables; in the Standards, a three-part assessment of text difficulty that pairs qualitative and quantitative measures with reader-task considerations.

text complexity band: a range of text difficulty corresponding to grade spans within the Standards; specifically, the spans from grades 2–3, grades 4–5, grades 6–8, grades 9–10, and grades 11–CCR (college and career readiness).

textual evidence: see evidence.

Tier One words: the words of everyday speech usually learned in the early grades, albeit not at the same rate by all children. They are not considered a challenge to the average native speaker, though English Language Learners of any age will have to attend carefully to them; see general academic words and phrases.

Tier Two words: words that are far more likely to appear in written texts than in speech. They appear in all sorts of texts: informational texts (words such as relative, vary, formulate, specificity), technical texts (calibrate, itemize, periphery), and literary texts (misfortune, dignified, faltered, unabashedly). Tier Two words often represent subtle or precise ways to say relatively simple things: saunter instead of walk, for example. Because Tier Two words are found across many types of texts, they are highly generalizable.

Tier Three words: words that are specific to a domain or field of study (lava, legislature, circumference, aorta) and key to understanding a new concept within a text. Because of their specificity and close ties to content knowledge, Tier Three words are far more common in informational texts than in literature. Recognized as new and “hard” words for most readers (particularly student readers), they are often explicitly defined by the author of a text, repeatedly used, and otherwise heavily scaffolded (e.g. made part of a glossary).