Vocabulary is the knowledge of a language’s words and word meanings.

Vocabulary is one of the five core components of reading instruction and an integral part of the K-12 English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core and state standards. Building a robust vocabulary is important because it improves all areas of communication,such as writing and speaking, and reading comprehension. Effective vocabulary instruction involves multiple exposure to words and spaced and repeated practice.

Vocabulary Topics

Academic Vocabulary
Academic vocabulary refers to words that are traditionally used in academic dialogue and text. These types of words are used to explain a concept; they are not frequently encountered in informal conversation.
Academic language includes the words:

  • analyze
  • contrast
  • identify
  • summarize

Content Area Vocabulary
Content area vocabulary are words that are subject-specific.
Specialized content vocabulary include:

  • Literature Content Vocabulary
  • Math Content Vocabulary
  • Science Content Vocabulary
  • Social Studies Content Vocabulary

Informational Text
Informational text is nonfiction writing that is intended to inform the reader about a particular topic. Informational text-based reading materials include newspaper and magazine articles, textbooks, digital information, nonfiction trade books, and reference books.
There are four types of informational text:

  • Narrative (essays, biographies, memoirs, correspondence)
  • Expository (textbooks, government documents)
  • Argument or persuasion (opinion pieces, speeches, legal documents)
  • Instructional or procedural (guidelines that describe how to complete a task, such as manuals or contracts).

An analogy is a comparison of two different things to highlight similarities. In an analogy, the relationship between the two words must be identified. Analogies for teaching and testing are typically written using special notation with colons. For example “in is to out,” would be written as “in:out.”
The following list features different types of analogies using the special notation:

  • Synonym (happy : joyful :: sad : depressed)
  • Antonym (inflation : deflation :: frail : strong)
  • Argument or persuasion (opinion pieces, speeches, legal documents)
  • Characteristic (tropical : hot :: polar : cold)

ACT and SAT Words
ACT/SAT words are words students should know when taking the ACT and SAT exams. Building a rich vocabulary helps students with reading comprehension and essay writing, which in turn improves scores on the critical reading and writing components of the ACT and SAT exams.

Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings.
Some antonym words are:

  • “hot” and “cold”
  • “up” and “down”
  • “short” and “tall”

Compound Words
Compound words are formed when two or more words are combined to create a new word.

There are three types of compound words:

  • Closed form – two words joined together to create new meaning (notebook, keyboard, softball).
  • Hyphenated form – words joined together by a hyphen (daughter-in-law, six-year-old).
  • Open form – words that have a space between them but when read together, have a new meaning (ice cream, full moon, real estate).

Frequently Confused Words
Frequently confused words are words that share many of the same characteristics, such as:

  • Homonyms, or multiple-meaning words, are words that usually sound alike and have the same spelling, but have different meanings (e.g. dog bark, tree bark).
  • Homophones, or sound-alikes, are two or more words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings, and may or may not be spelled the same way (e.g. their/there/they’re).
  • Homographs, are words that have the same spelling, but have different meanings and may be pronounced differently.
  • Heteronyms, or heterophones, are words that that have the same spelling but have different pronunciations (e.g. bow and arrow vs. take a bow).
  • Capitonyms, are words that change in meaning, and sometimes pronunciation, when capitalized; the capitalization usually applies due to one form being a proper noun (e.g. Turkey the country vs. turkey the bird).

Latin and Greek Roots
A root is the basis of a word and it typically does not stand alone, like a Latin and Greek root. More than half of the words in the English language have Latin or Greek roots – this is especially true in content areas, like science and technology.

Common Latin and Greek roots are:

  • Latin – “ject” meaning throw like in “eject
  • Greek – “hydr” meaning water like in “hydrate”

A prefix is a group of letters placed before a root or base word that changes the word’s meaning.

Common prefixes are:

  • “Dis-” meaning “not,” like in “disapprove”
  • “Re-” meaning “again,” like in “reread”
  • “Un-” meaning “not,” like in “unhappy”

Root Words
A root word is a basic standalone word in which affixes can be added to create new words. The root word “honest” can be changed by adding the prefix “dis-” to form “dishonest” or the suffix “-y” to form “honesty.”

A suffix is a letter or a group of letters placed after a root or bases word that modify the word’s meaning.

Suffixes can either be):

  • Inflectional suffixes – create a different form of the same word, for example adding “-s” the word“dog” to make it plural, “dogs.”
  • Derivational suffixes – change a word’s meaning or part of speech, for example “-er” if added to the word “teach” to make “teacher.”

Synonyms are words that have very similar meanings.

Some synonym words are:

  • “happy” and “glad”
  • “big” and “large”
  • “tiny” and “small”