Addressing the Common Core State

Standards: Effective Vocabulary
Instruction to Enhance the
Comprehension of Complex Texts

Jerry Zutell
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University
Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers
Scholastic, Inc.

CCSS: Vocabulary Connection to Comprehension
Importance of vocabulary cannot be overstated.
Empirically, significant connection to reading
comprehension recently confirmed.
Difference in students’ vocabulary levels is a key factor
in disparities in academic achievement.
Research finding: students must grasp 95% percent of
the words to understand a reading selection.
Vocabulary acquisition stagnates by grade 4 or 5 unless
acquired from written context (see 4th grade slump).
Source: CCSS (2010), ELA Standards Appendix A, p. 32

CCSS Perspective on Tier Two Words
• Same as general academic words
• More likely written than spoken
• All types of texts: informational, technical, literary
• Subtle/precise language for simple things
• Highly generalizable
• Frequently found in Complex Texts

• Powerful because can be widely applied
• Teachers need to be alert for them
• Teachers need to determine which ones need
careful attention
Source: CCSS (2010), ELA Standards , Appendix A, pp. 32-33

CCSS Exemplar: Tier Two and Three Words
Our planet made up of many layers of rock. The top layers
of solid rock are called the crust. Deep
beneath the crust is the mantle, where it is so hot that some
rock melts. The melted, or molten,
rock is called magma.
Volcanoes are formed when magma pushes its way up
through the crack in Earth’s crust. This is
called a volcanic eruption. When magma pours forth on the
surface, it is called lava.

Simon, Seymour. Volcanoes. New York: HarperCollins,
2006. (2006) Complexity Band: 4-5
Source: CCSS (2010), ELA Standards , Appendix A, pp. 33-34

CCSS Exemplar: Tier Two and Three Words
The biggest obstacle was the poll tax, a special tax that was
required of all voters but was too costly for many blacks and
for poor whites as well. Voters also had to pass a literacy
test to prove that they could read, write, and the
U.S. Constitution. These tests were often rigged to
disqualify even highly educated blacks. Those who
overcame the obstacles and insisted on registering as
voters faced threats, harassment and even physical
violence. As a result, African Americans in the South could
not express their grievances in the voting booth, which for
the most part, was closed to them.
Freedman, Russell. Freedom Walkers: The Story of the
Montgomery Bus Boycott. New York: Holiday House, 2006.
(2006) Complexity Band 6-8
Source: CCSS (2010), ELA Standards , Appendix A, pp. 34

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
General Expectations for Instruction and Achievement

The standards expect that students will grow
their vocabularies through a mix of
conversations, direct instruction, readalouds, and reading. The standards will help
students determine word meanings,
appreciate the nuances of words, and steadily
expand their repertoire of words and phrases.

Source: CCSS (2010), ELA Standards , Appendix A, p.32

Categories For Grade-Specific Standards
1. Use Context
2. Use Roots and Affixes
3. Use Reference Sources
4. Explore Word Relationships
5. Explore Nuances/Shades of Meaning
6. Understand Concrete/Inferred Meanings
7. Understand Figurative Language
8. Acquire and Use New Words to
Express Relationships
9. Use Precision in Writing

Explore Word Relationships
compound words


Use Roots and Affixes as Clues to Word Meaning
most frequently occurring inflections and affixes
frequently occurring affixes
frequently occurring root words and their
inflectional forms

known root word as a clue to the meaning of an
unknown word with the same root
known affix is added to a known word;

grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots

Changing Examples: Roots and Affixes

-ed, -s, re-, un-, pre-, -ful, -less


looks, looked, looking


addition, additional
happy/unhappy, tell/retell


company, companion;
agreeable/disagreeable, comfortable
/uncomfortable, care/careless, heat/preheat


telegraph, photograph, autograph


photograph, photosynthesis


audience, auditory, audible


belligerent, bellicose, rebel


precede, recede, secede

Themes Among Specific Categories
Strategies for Determining Word Meanings

Exploring Various Relationships Among Words
Understanding Non-Literal Meanings and Uses
Learning New Words and Using Them Precisely
to Convey Increasingly Complex Ideas

CCSS and Vocabulary Instruction
“Research suggests that if students are going to
grasp and retain words and comprehend text, they
need incremental, repeated exposure in a
variety of contexts to the words they are trying
to learn. When students make multiple
connections between a new word and their own
experiences, they develop a nuanced and flexible
understanding of the word they are learning. In this
way, students learn not only what a word means but
also how to use that word in a variety of contexts,
and they can apply appropriate senses of the word’s
meaning in order to understand the word in
different contexts.”
Source: CCSS (2010), ELA Standards Appendix A, p. 32