Such an important question! You may find the explanation of academic vocabulary in Appendix A of the CCSS rather useful. Scroll to pp. 32 - 33 of this link: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf
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That is a really tough question to answer. Tier one words are everyday words, like basic sight words. Tier 3 words are content specific words, like scientific terms or historical terms. Tier 3 words are pretty much every word in between. They could be multiple meaning words like "admission" - way in or confession. They are words that can be used in all content areas and not specific to one. They are words that affect the contextual meaning of the passage. Without knowing what the academic vocabulary means, the reader may not understand the context of the passage. Knowing and using academic vocabulary makes us articulate adults. We need to not only be able to understand them when we read but use them when we speak and understand them when others speak.
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