何謂分層詞彙?Tiered Vocabulary? What Is It?

Tiered Vocabulary: What Is It, and Why Does It Matter?


In the educational context of North America, vocabulary words can be categorized into three tiers.


Tier 1 words are the most basic, simple words that most children know even before entering school. These are primarily concrete nouns, verbs, and high-frequency words used every day. Examples include words like “dog,” “run,” “happy,” etc. These words are also what we call active vocabulary words that we often produce in speech and writing. 

第一級詞彙是最為基本、簡單的單字,多數孩童在進入學校前即已知悉。這些單字主要是較為具象的(concrete)名詞、動詞以及日常使用的高頻率詞彙。如「dog」(狗)、「run」(跑)、「happy」(開心)等。這些單字也是我們所說的主動詞彙(active vocabulary——經常用於口說與寫作當中。

Tier 2 words are high-frequency words used by mature language users across several content areas. These words are essential for reading comprehension, particularly in informational texts, and are more likely to appear in written texts rather than in everyday speech. Examples include words like “contradict,” “justify,” “analyze,” etc. (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002). In an academic setting, students need to be able to both comprehend and use these words since they are needed for all domains.

We use these words even in our interaction with AI. Words like “expand,” “critique,” and “evaluate” can be used as prompts in a language model like ChatGPT to accomplish various tasks.

第二級詞彙是熟練的語言使用者於多個內容領域(content areas)中所使用的高頻率詞彙。這些詞彙對閱讀理解非常重要,較常出現於書面的文字當中,而非日常的談話裡。例如:「contradict」(矛盾)、「justify」(證明)、「analyze」(分析)等(BeckMcKeownKucan2002)。在學術環境裡,學生須理解並使用這些詞彙,因為這些詞彙在所有領域中都是必備的。


Tier 3 words are low-frequency, domain-specific words. These are typically the technical vocabulary associated with specific fields of study or areas of expertise, such as “mitosis” in biology, “isotope” in chemistry, or “proletariat” in social studies. While these words may be considered passive, meaning you have the ability to recognize and comprehend their meanings, yet might not be able to use them. Nevertheless, students need to actively employ these words in higher education and their subsequent professional life.


The pedagogical approach of both my Academic Vocabulary and Critical Thinking courses is anchored in an emphasis on Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary words, strategically categorizing Tier 3 words according to their respective disciplines. Within the Vocabulary course, each discipline is further compartmentalized into detailed subcategories, which are visually represented through cognitive mind maps. These maps feature high-frequency lexical chunks that seamlessly integrate Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary words. For instance, phrases such as “justify an economic policy” or “deepen our understanding of astronomy” are typical examples. On the other hand, the Critical Thinking course is grounded in Bloom’s Taxonomy, providing a systematic framework to explore and critically engage with pressing news topics. The course is designed to foster a sophisticated understanding and application of Tier 2 words, such as “differentiate,” “analyze,” “elaborate,” and “assess,” ensuring that these words are learned and discussed within the relevant context.

我的學術詞彙課程與批判性思考課程的教學方式(pedagogical approach)都以第二級、第三級詞彙為核心,並有策略地就其所屬的學科來分類第三級詞彙。在詞彙課程中,每個學科都進一步細分為更精細的子類別,並透過視覺化的心智圖來呈現。這些心智圖包含了高頻率詞彙語塊,將第二級與第三級詞彙無縫接軌。例如「justify an economic policy」(辯護經濟政策)或「deepen our understanding of astronomy」(加深我們對天文學的理解)都是典型的例子。另一方面,批判性思考課程則基於布魯姆的分類法(Bloom’s Taxonomy),提供了一個系統性的架構來探索並批判地參與熱門的新聞話題。該課程旨在培養對第二級詞彙——如「differentiate」(區分)、「analyze」(分析)、「elaborate」(詳述)和 「assess」(評估)——的繁複理解與運用,確保我們得以在相關語境中學習與討論這些單字。

Understanding and utilizing Tier 2 and Tier 3 words are of paramount importance for English learners as these vocabulary tiers serve as the foundation for academic and professional proficiency in English.



Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. Guilford Press.

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