Academic vocabulary is a new language for ALL students, including our English Language Learners.  The key terms used in EQAO testing are often words and phrases that are reflective of higher order critical thinking skills, and really need to be taught to all students in our schools, starting in the early primary grades.  Some of these key words and phrases include:

  • list
  • compare
  • describe
  • predict
  • define
  • explain your thinking
  • identify
  • show your work
  • use information from the text
  • use your own ideas
  • determine
  • justify
  • summarize

Meaning of Key Words in Language and Mathematics Questions on the Primary Division and Junior Division Assessments and the OSSLT

As the parent of a junior kindergarten student, I can say with absolute certainty that kindergarten is not too early to begin to use this kind of academic vocabulary with children.  Ask your child to describe something that they are experiencing using their senses as they play in nature, in a sensory bin, during an art activity, or with play-doh.  Ask them to predict what will happen next in a story that you’re reading together. Ask them to really think through and justify a request that they are making of you. Ask them to help you summarize what happened in a story you’ve read together.  Ask them to make an inference about how a character might be feeling in a story that you are reading, and to back up their thinking with proof from the text and their own ideas.

These printable posters for EQAO key words were published by the York Region District School Board.

If you’d like to test yourself and see how well you know some of these key words and phrases, try playing this Kahoot.

ESL teachers in the WRDSB have access to printable charts with visuals and translations of the EQAO key words in: Arabic, Farsi, Serbia, Chinese, German, Somali, Dari, Punjabi, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese.  Please do not hesitate to ask your school’s ESL contact if you would like a copy!