How many students struggle taking tests?  Not because they don’t know the subject matter, but because they just don’t understand what a question was asking?  They just might not know what a word meant.

Larry I. Bell, author of the book, 12 Powerful Words That Increase Test Scores and Help Close the Achievement Gap, has come up with a list of 12 words that when students are exposed to these words in a systemic, in depth manner, they will have to think at a higher level.  By asking teachers to model these powerful words in daily conversations, as part of the questions on tests and quizzes, students are less likely to be intimidated by them on standardized tests; therefore, relieving any testing anxiety.

Unfortunately, in our current educational testing system, with the infinite wisdom of legislators and policy makers who mandate so many “required state assessments”, high stakes testing is a huge part of the school year.  And for many students, with so much riding on these tests, it’s no wonder that many students suffer from test anxiety.  However, with continuous and consistent exposure to these 12 Powerful Words there will be an increase in the student’s confidence level as well as a reduction in testing anxiety.

The key is for all students to be thoroughly familiar with these 12 Powerful Words Every teacher in every class must consistently use these words.  When this happens, all students will benefit.

Here are the 12 Powerful Words with a short, “student-friendly” definition of each:

  1. Trace – list in steps
  2. Analyze – break apart
  3. Infer – read between the lines
  4. Evaluate – judge
  5. Formulate – create
  6. Describe – tell all about
  7. Support – back up with details
  8. Explain – tell how
  9. Summarize – give me the short version
  10. Compare – all the ways they are alike
  11. Contrast – all the ways they are different
  12. Predict – what will happen next

What strategies can teachers use to make the 12 Powerful Words a part of every student’s vocabulary? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

  1. Lisa Wright says:

    I’d say our students are probably comfortable with at least half of these words, but the other half would leave them scratching their heads. One strategy, after defining the words and looking at examples, might be to have the students come up with a good test question illustrating one of the words…and then switch and answer another student’s question.

  2. We could make more informational posters 🙂

  3. Jennifer Rogers says:

    I Love this, and researched this during the Summer and found an awesome list of words I try to pull from daily, “Critical Thinking Skills”, that also gives me questioning techniques/strategies I should be asking that fall in the Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis,Synthesis, and Evaluation areas. This “Cheat Sheet” also gives me synonyms for these words (including the twelve). I would be glad to share if any one is interested.

  4. Yvette Dauster says:

    WOW! What great ideas!

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