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Why are Key Words Important?

In NSW, NESA’s key words form the foundation of everything taught in the state’s secondary classrooms. They are found throughout every subject’s syllabus, teaching materials and we also assess our students by them. Therefore, these key words are a vitally important part of our profession and the education of our students.

Here at Teacher PD, our mission is to help teachers better understand key words and provide the tools to effectively teach them. That’s why we’ve developed the Key Word Success Initiative. To coincide with the initiative’s launch, we’ve answered the question, why are key words important?

Key words help teachers to decode the syllabus

The syllabus for your subject area can be difficult to understand at the best of times. However, not having a strong knowledge of key words can make it even more challenging to fully understand your syllabus. These verbs are scattered throughout the syllabus and show you the level of understanding your students need to have of a particular outcome or dot point. For example, students need a much more thorough understanding of an outcome that includes explain than one that includes describe. Keeping this in mind, you can determine which content and outcomes deserve the most attention from you and your students.

They help teachers to consistently assess students

Now we know many syllabi contain outcomes and dot points featuring a range of key words, we realise they allow for consistent assessment across the state. By teaching students content based on the verbs used in the syllabus, all students in NSW are taught to the same level, have the same expectations placed on them for content understanding and can be assessed, and ultimately compared to one another, in a consistent manner.

Learning key words prepares students for the HSC

All HSC exams are created using key words. This allows markers to determine whether a student understands the content to the required level. Therefore, having a thorough understanding of these verbs can give students a much needed leg-up in their HSC exams.

Students who understand the meaning of these verbs and what is expected in their responses for each are more likely to score high marks. They are also more likely to reach the highly valued Band 6 for their overall result. The earlier students can start learning the key words, the more prepared they will be for the HSC. For this reason, it can be beneficial to start key word education in a student’s junior high school years.

They are used across many curriculums

The NESA key words mean, and are applied in the same way, across many of the state’s key learning areas. Therefore, once students have an understanding of these verbs, they can easily respond to them across all of their subjects. Better understanding key words will allow students to have a better grasp of syllabi in general and what is expected of them in the HSC in each subject area, regardless of the content being taught.

Understanding key words improves students’ overall literacy

A thorough understanding of the key words will inherently improve students’ literacy. By taking the time to learn what they mean and how to respond to them, students further develop their reading and writing. This, of course, has many benefits and not just to improve their responses and marks in the HSC. Improved literacy can give students greater opportunities in the world outside of school including further education and better employment prospects.

Now we know why key words are important for our students to learn about, let’s talk about the best way to teach them. Teacher PD is passionate about helping teachers to enhance student learning. That’s why we have developed the Key Word Success Initiative. It’s a great place to start learning about key words.

The Key Word Success Initiative

There are basic and premium Key Word Success packages available to schools or teachers. Both packages include bright and engaging resources to help students learn about the NESA key words and to assist teachers to teach them in the most effective way possible.

Each package features posters of the 36 key words, PowerPoint presentations to help students break down each verb and scaffolds to assist them in constructing their responses. Also included is a key word glossary which is a quick reference tool. The premium package steps things up a notch. It also includes resources to help gamify the process, pre and post tests to assess your students’ understanding, key word data and much, much more!

Teacher PD also has another popular key word resource available. The key word flashcards provide students a handy key word study tool. Each flashcard features a key word and its definition on the other side. Students can use these flashcards to test their key word memory at any time they please and across any key learning area!

We now know why key words are important, both for teachers and students to understand. They help teachers to better teach content. They also assist students to develop their literacy and perform to their best in assessments and HSC exams. Teacher PD can help teachers and students with key word understanding through the Key Word Success Initiative and Key Word Flashcards.

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