Essential Language for Reaching the Common Core:

Aligning the CCSS with Language Development Standards

Over the last few weeks, we have talked at length about a number of ways to increase your students’ vocabulary so that they are able to access increasingly more complex text and grow as readers and intellectual beings. In fact, with the arrival of the Common Core State Standards, we’ve all become more mindful of the complexity of texts we present to our students and the tasks they are given to process what they’ve read with increasing depth and challenge.

In order to begin accessing increasingly complex texts, we know that one thing students need to acquire is a growing bank of words at their disposal in order to make meaning. However, in order for students to begin to successfully tackle more rigorous tasks, there is another critical need. It is absolutely vital that students understand what a performance task, practice application, or assessment is asking for them to do with the same level of fluency and automaticity that we expect from them when reading any text or passage.

The Common Core State Standards offer us two categories of words that students must master – nouns and verbs. The nouns of the standards detail the key concepts and ideas that are essential take aways in Literacy, Math, and NGSS. Without access to these words, students will struggle to make meaning of and from the standards with rigor or precision. The verbs of the standards outline the thinking and mental tasks for which students must be prepared to engage. It is one thing to give students the opportunity to critique a peer’s argument, and to revise their argument based on that feedback (depth of knowledge 4). It is another reality for that student to expertly know what it means to offer a peer that critique.

There are a number of strategies that you can leverage in order to teach these words such as: gradual release with modeling, visual representations, total physical response, four square, concept mapping, categorizing, creating student glossaries/dictionaries, gradients, word play, and more.

Additionally, it is critical to know what these high leverage words are. While the nouns vary between the different subject areas and grades, the following list of verbs will be an incredibly helpful starting point in teaching your students words that will help them to think with the depth necessary to successfully complete tasks and master the standards.


  • Analyze
  • Articulate
  • Cite
  • Compare
  • Comprehend
  • Contrast
  • Delineate
  • Demonstrate
  • Describe
  • Determine
  • Develop
  • Distinguish
  • Draw
  • Evaluate
  • Explain
  • Identify
  • Infer
  • Integrate
  • Interpret
  • Locate
  • Organize
  • Paraphrase
  • Refer
  • Retell
  • Suggest
  • Summarize
  • Support
  • Synthesize
  • Trace


If there are additional ways that you help your students to access the language of the Common Core State Standards, please comment below. Or you can email us at tajulearning@gmail.com.