Don't know a morpheme from a phoneme? Find out what these and other words mean in this glossary of commonly used terms related to reading, literacy, and reading instruction.

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Academic English

The English language ability required for academic achievement in context-reduced situations, such as classroom lectures and textbook reading assignments. This is sometimes referred to as Cognitive/Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).


Accuracy is the ability to recognize words correctly.

Adequate yearly progress

An individual state's measure of yearly progress toward achieving state academic standards. "Adequate Yearly Progress" is the minimum level of improvement that states, school districts and schools must achieve each year.

Advanced phonics

Strategies for decoding multisyllabic words that include morphology and information about the meaning, pronunciation, and parts of speech of words gained from knowledge of prefixes, roots, and suffixes.


Affixes are word parts that are "fixed to" either the beginnings of words (prefixes) or the endings of words (suffixes). The word disrespectful has two affixes, a prefix (dis-) and a suffix (-ful).


The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words in connected text (e.g., Harry the happy hippo hula-hoops with Henrietta).

Alphabetic principle

The understanding that spoken words are made up of sounds that can be represented by letters in print.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans With Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.


Comparing two sets of words to show some common similarity between the sets. When done as a vocabulary exercise this requires producing one of the words (e.g., cat is to kitten: as dog is to _____?).

Analogy-based phonics

See phonics.

Analytic phonics

See phonics.


A word opposite in meaning to another word.

Assistive Technology (AT)

See Assistive Technology Glossary

Attention deficit disorder (ADD)

Attention deficit disorder is an older name for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the inability to use skills of attention effectively. Studies suggest that five to ten percent of children, adolescents, and adults may have ADHD.


Automaticity is a general term that refers to any skilled and complex behavior that can be performed rather easily with little attention, effort, or conscious awareness. These skills become automatic after extended periods of training. With practice and good instruction, students become automatic at word recognition, that is, retrieving words from memory, and are able to focus attention on constructing meaning from the text, rather than decoding.

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Background knowledge

Forming connections between the text and the information and experiences of the reader.

Base words

Base words are words from which many other words are formed. For example, many words can be formed from the base word migrate: migration, migrant, immigration, immigrant, migrating, migratory. Also called a free morpheme.

Bilingual education

An educational program in which two languages are used to provide content matter instruction. Bilingual education programs vary in their length of time, and in the amount each language is used.


A blend is a consonant sequence before or after a vowel within a syllable, such as cl, br, or st; it is the written language equivalent of consonant cluster.


Combining units of sound (syllables, onsets and rimes, phonemes) to form a word.

Bloom's Taxonomy

A system for categorizing levels of abstraction of questions that commonly occur in educational settings. Includes the following competencies: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Book parts

A component of concepts of print, knowledge of book parts includes the ability to identify front and back covers, title, author, illustrator, spine, and title page.

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Central auditory processing disorder/deficit (CAPD)

Central auditory processing disorder occurs when the ear and the brain do not coordinate fully. A CAPD is a physical hearing impairment, but one which does not show up as a hearing loss on routine screenings or an audiogram. Instead, it affects the hearing system beyond the ear, whose job it is to separate a meaningful message from non-essential background sound and deliver that information with good clarity to the intellectual centers of the brain (the central nervous system).

Chunked text

Continuous text that has been separated into meaningful phrases often with the use of single and double slash marks (/ and //). The intent of using chunked text or chunking text is to give children an opportunity to practice reading phrases fluently. There is no absolute in chunking text. Teachers should use judgment when teaching students how to chunk. Generally, slash marks are made between subject and predicate, and before and after prepositional phrases.


A decoding strategy for breaking words into manageable parts (e.g., /yes /ter/ day). Chunking also refers to the process of dividing a sentence into smaller phrases where pauses might occur naturally (e.g., When the sun appeared after the storm, / the newly fallen snow /shimmered like diamonds).


A professional development process of supporting teachers in implementing new classroom practices by providing new content and information, modeling related teaching strategies, and offering on-going feedback as teachers master new practices.


When saying words our mouth is always ready for the next sound to be made. While saying one sound, the lips, tongue, etc., are starting to form the sound to follow. This can distort individual sounds during speech because the sounds are not produced in isolated units (e.g., ham- the /m/ blends with the /a/ to distort the vowel). This process is called coarticulation. Because of coarticulation, some children have difficulty hearing the individual sounds in words and the concept of phonemes needs to be explicitly brought to their attention through instruction.


Words that are related to each other by virtue of being derived from a common origin (e.g., 'decisive' and 'decision' or education (English) and educación (Spanish).


Understanding what one is reading, the ultimate goal of all reading activity.

Comprehension monitoring

An awareness of one’s understanding of text being read. Comprehension monitoring is part of metacognition “thinking about thinking” know what is clear and what is confusing as the reader and having the capabilities to make repairs to problems with comprehension.

Comprehension strategies

Comprehension strategies are techniques to teach reading comprehension, including summarization, prediction, and inferring word meanings from context.

Comprehension strategy instruction

Comprehensive strategy instruction is the explicit teaching of techniques that are particularly effective for comprehending text. The steps of explicit instruction include direct explanation, teacher modeling ("think aloud"), guided practice, and application. Some strategies include direct explanation (the teacher explains to students why the strategy helps comprehension and when to apply the strategy), modeling (the teacher models, or demonstrates, how to apply the strategy, usually by "thinking aloud" while reading the text that the students are using), guided practice (the teacher guides and assists students as they learn how and when to apply the strategy) and application (the teacher helps students practice the strategy until they can apply it independently).

Concepts of print

The knowledge that printed words carry meaning, and that reading and writing are ways to get information. Includes knowledge of the parts of a book, directionality, print structure, and features of a text.

Connected text

Words that are linked (as opposed to words in a list) as in sentences, phrases, and paragraphs.

Consonant blend

Two or more consecutive consonants which retain their individual sounds (e.g., /bl/ in block; /str/ in string).

Consonant digraph

Two consecutive consonants that represent one phoneme, or sound (e.g., /ch/, /sh/).

Context clues

Context clues are sources of information outside of words that readers may use to predict the identities and meanings of unknown words. Context clues may be drawn from the immediate sentence containing the word, from text already read, from pictures accompanying the text, or from definitions, restatements, examples, or descriptions in the text.

Continuous sounds

A sound that can be held for several seconds without distortion (e.g., /m/, /s/).

Continuum of word types

Words can be classified by type according to their relative difficulty to decode. Typically this continuum is listed from easy to difficult, beginning with VC and CVC words that begin with continuous sounds and progressing to CCCVC and CCCVCC words.

Cooperative learning

Cooperative learning involves students working together as partners or in small groups on clearly defined tasks. It has been used successfully to teach comprehension strategies in content-area subjects.

Coordinated instructional sequences

Coordinated instructional sequences take into consideration how information is selected, sequenced, organized, and practiced. Coordinated instructional sequences occur within each component of reading where a logical progression of skills would be evident: easier skills are introduced before more difficult skills, so that skills build progressively. The other way coordinated instructional sequences are evident is in the clear and meaningful relationship or linking of instruction across the five components of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension. If students orally segment and blend words with the letter-sound /f/ during phonemic awareness instruction, then we would expect to see it followed by practice in connecting the sound /f/ with the letter f. This would be followed by fluency practice in reading words, sentences, and/or passages with the letter-sound /f/. Spelling practice would include /f/ and other previously learned letter-sounds.

Core instruction

Core Instruction is instruction provided to all students in the class, and it is usually guided by a comprehensive core reading program. Part of the core instruction is usually provided to the class as a whole, and part is provided during the small group, differentiated instruction period. Although instruction is differentiated by student need during the small group period, materials and lesson procedures from the core program can frequently be used to provide reteaching, or additional teaching to students according to their needs.


Instruction that builds upon previously learned concepts.

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Decodable text

Text in which a high proportion of words comprise sound-symbol relationships that have already been taught. It is used for the purpose of providing practice with specific decoding skills and is a bridge between learning phonics and the application of phonics in independent reading.

Decodable words

These words contain phonic elements that were previously taught.


The translation of the letters in written words into recognizable sounds and combining these sounds into meaningful words. It is also the act of deciphering a new word by sounding it out.

Derivational affix

A prefix or suffix added to a root or base to form another word (e.g., -un in unhappy , -ness in likeness).


Tests that can be used to measure a variety of reading, language, or cognitive skills. Although they can be given as soon as a screening test indicates a child is behind in reading growth, they will usually be given only if a child fails to make adequate progress after being given extra help in learning to read. They are designed to provide a more precise and detailed picture of the full range of a child’s knowledge and skill so that instruction can be more precisely planned.

Dialogic reading

During story reading, the teacher/parent asks questions, adds information, and prompts student to increase sophistication of responses by expanding on his/her utterances.

Differentiated instruction

Matching instruction to meet the different needs of learners in a given classroom.

Difficult words

Some words are difficult because they contain phonic elements that have not yet been taught. Others are difficult because they contain letter-sound correspondences that are unique to that word (e.g., yacht).


A group of two consecutive letters whose phonetic value is a single sound (e.g., /ea/ in bread; /ch/ in chat; /ng/ in sing).


A vowel produced by the tongue shifting position during articulation; a vowel that feels as if it has two parts, especially the vowels spelled ow, oy, ou, and oi.

Direct instruction

The teacher defines and teaches a concept, guides students through its application, and arranges for extended guided practice until mastery is achieved.

Direct vocabulary instruction

Planned instruction to pre-teach new, important, and difficult words to ensure the quantity and quality of exposures to words that students will encounter in their reading. Direct vocabulary instruction aids reading comprehension.


A component of concepts of print, directionality includes knowledge about how to read an English book or text, including: read top to bottom, read left to right, identify first and last word, tracking, and return sweep.

Domain-specific words and phrases*

Vocabulary specific to a particular field of study (domain), such as the human body (CCSS, p. 33); in the Standards, domain-specific words and phrases are analogous to Tier Three words (Language, p. 33).


Dyslexia is a language-based disability that affects both oral and written language. It may also be referred to as reading disability, reading difference, or reading disorder.

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A part of writing and preparing presentations concerned chiefly with improving the clarity, organization, concision, and correctness of expression relative to task, purpose, and audience; compared to revising, a smaller-scale activity often associated with surface aspects of a text; see also revising, rewriting.

Elkonin boxes

A framework used during phonemic awareness instruction. Elkonin Boxes are sometimes referred to as Sound Boxes. When working with words, the teacher can draw one box per sound for a target word. Students push a marker into one box as they segment each sound in the word.

Embedded phonics

See phonics.

Emergent literacy

The view that literacy learning begins at birth and is nurtured through meaningful literacy-related activities between children and adults.

Emergent reader texts*

Texts consisting of short sentences comprised of learned sight words and CVC words; may also include rebuses to represent words that cannot yet be decoded or recognized; see also rebus.

Empirical research

Refers to scientifically based research that applies rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain valid knowledge. This includes research that: employs systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment; has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective and scientific review; involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions drawn; relies on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers and across multiple measurements and observations; and can be generalized.


The ability to translate language into print (writing).

English language learner (ELL)

English language learners are students whose first language is not English and who are in the process of learning English. Defined by the U.S. Department of Education as national-origin-minority students who are limited-English-proficient. Often abbreviated as ELLs.

Environmental print

Printed materials that are a part of everyday life, including signs, billboards, labels, and packaging.

Error correction

Immediate corrective feedback during reading instruction.


ESL is the common acronym for English as a Second Language, an educational approach in which English language learners are instructed in the use of the English language.


The origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning (e.g., the origin of our word etymology comes from late Middle English: from Old French ethimologie, via Latin from Greek etumologia, from etumologos ‘student of etymology,’ from etumon, neuter singular of etumos ‘true’).


Facts, figures, details, quotations, or other sources of data and information that provide support for claims or an analysis and that can be evaluated by others; should appear in a form and be derived from a source widely accepted as appropriate to a particular discipline, as in details or quotations from a text in the study of literature and experimental results in the study of science.

Explicit instruction

Teaching children in a systematic and sequential manner. Explicit instruction is step-by-step, and the actions of the teacher are clear, specific, direct, and related to the learning objective.

Expository text

Reports factual information (also referred to as informational text) and the relationships among ideas. Expository text tends to be more difficult for students than narrative text because of the density of long, difficult, and unknown words or word parts.

Expressive language

Language that is spoken.

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Figurative meanings

Language that departs from its literal meaning (e.g., The snow sparkled like diamonds; That child is a handful.).

Flexible grouping

Grouping students according to shared instructional needs and abilities and regrouping as their instructional needs change. Group size and allocated instructional time may vary among groups.

Floss rule

Words of one syllable, ending in “f”, “l”, or “s” — after one vowel, usually end in “ff”, “ll”, or “ss” (sounds /f/, /l/, /s/).


Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, at a good pace, and with proper expression and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the text means.

Focused question*

A query narrowly tailored to task, purpose, and audience, as in a research query that is sufficiently precise to allow a student to achieve adequate specificity and depth within the time and format constraints.

Formal assessment

Follows a prescribed format for administration and scoring. Scores obtained from formal tests are standardized, meaning that interpretation is based on norms from a comparative sample of children.

Formal English

See standard English.

Frayer model

An adaptation of the concept map. The framework of the Frayer Model includes: the concept word, the definition, characteristics of the concept word, examples of the concept word, and non-examples of the concept word. It is important to include both examples and non-examples, so students are able to identify what the concept word is and what the concept word is not.

Frustrational reading level

The level at which a reader reads at less than a 90% accuracy (i.e., no more than one error per 10 words read). Frustration level text is difficult text for the reader.

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General academic words and phrases*

Vocabulary common to written texts but not commonly a part of speech; in the Standards, general academic words and phrases are analogous to Tier Two words and phrases (Language, p. 33).


A grapheme is a letter or letter combination that spells a single phoneme. In English, a grapheme may be one, two, three, or four letters, such as e, ei, igh, or eigh.

Graphic and semantic organizers

A visual framework or structure for capturing the main points of what is being read, which may include concepts, ideas, events, vocabulary, or generalizations. Graphic organizers allow ideas in text and thinking processes to become external by showing the interrelatedness of ideas, thus facilitating understanding for the reader. The structure of a graphic organizer is determined by the structure of the kind of text being read: maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames, or clusters. Semantic organizers are graphic organizers that look somewhat like a spider web where lines connect a central concept to a variety of related ideas and events.


The relationship between letters and phonemes.

Guided oral reading

Instructional support including immediate corrective feedback as students read orally.

Guided practice

Students practice newly learned skills with the teacher providing prompts and feedback.

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High-frequency irregular words

High-frequency words that are irregularly spelled, and whose irregular grapheme-phoneme correspondences must be explicitly taught in order to “know them by heart” — sometimes called “heart words.” Examples include said, are, and where.

High-frequency words

Words that most commonly appear in print. They can be phonetically decodable (regularly spelled) or words with irregular spellings (i.e., Dolch or Fry). Often, they are referred to as “sight words” since automatic recognition of these words is required for fluent reading. They should not be taught by visually memorizing whole words but instead by using decoding to teach the regular or irregular grapheme-phoneme correspondences.


Words that are spelled the same but have different origins and meanings. They may or may not be pronounced the same (e.g., can as in a metal container/can as in able to).


Words that sound the same but are spelled differently (e.g., cents/sense, knight/night).


Words that may or may not be spelled alike but are pronounced the same. These words are of different origins and have different meanings (e.g., ate and eight; scale as in the covering of a fish; and scale as in a device used to weigh things)



See Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


See Individualized Education Program.


A phrase or expression that differs from the literal meaning of the words; a regional or individual expression with a unique meaning (e.g., it’s raining cats and dogs).

Immediate corrective feedback

When an error occurs, the teacher immediately attends to it by scaffolding instruction (i.e., gradual release of responsibility).

Immediate intensive intervention

Instruction that may include more time, more opportunities for student practice, more teacher feedback, smaller group size, and different materials. It is implemented as soon as assessment indicates that students are not making adequate progress in reading.

Implicit instruction

The opposite of explicit instruction. Students discover skills and concepts instead of being explicitly taught. For example, the teacher writes a list of words on the board that begin with the letter “m” (mud, milk, meal, and mattress) and asks the students how the words are similar. The teacher elicits from the students that the letter “m” stands for the sound you hear at the beginning of the words.


A student performance done without scaffolding from a teacher, other adult, or peer; in the Standards, often paired with proficient(ly) to suggest a successful student performance done without scaffolding; in the Reading standards, the act of reading a text without scaffolding, as in an assessment; see also proficient(ly), scaffolding.

Independent reading level

The level at which a reader can read text with 95% accuracy (i.e., no more than one error per 20 words read). Independent reading level is relatively easy text for the reader.

Independent-instructional reading level range

The reading range that spans instructional and independent reading levels or level of text that a student can read with 90% to 95% or above accuracy.

Indirect vocabulary learning

Indirect vocabulary learning refers to students learning the meaning of words indirectly when they hear or see the words used in many different contexts – for example, through conversations with adults, through being read to, and through reading extensively on their own.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

An individualized educational program describes the special education and related services specifically designed to meet the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the law that guarantees all children with disabilities access to a free and appropriate public education.

Inflectional suffix

In English, a suffix that expresses plurality or possession when added to a noun, tense when added to a verb, and comparison when added to an adjective and some adverbs. A major difference between inflectional and derivational morphemes is that inflections added to verbs, nouns, or adjectives do not change the grammatical role or part of speech of the base words (-s, -es ,-ing, ¬ed).

Informal assessment

Does not follow prescribed rules for administration and scoring and has not undergone technical scrutiny for reliability and validity. Teacher-made tests, end-of-unit tests, and running records are all examples of informal assessment.

Informational text

Non-fiction books, also referred to as expository text, that contain facts and information.

Instructional design

Instructional design in reading refers to the process of translating key learning objectives and goals into a delivery system to meet those goals. When we discuss the instructional design of a reading program, we are referring to the underlying framework of a reading program, the way the curriculum is constructed.

Instructional reading level

The level at which a reader can read text with 90% accuracy (i.e., no more than one error per 10 words read). Instructional reading level engages the student in challenging, but manageable text.

Instructional routines

Instructional routines include the following sequence of steps:

  • Explicit instruction
  • Modeling
  • Guided practice
  • Student practice, application, and feedback
  • Generalization


Focused instruction where students are academically engaged with the content and the teacher and receive more opportunities to practice with immediate teacher feedback.

Intervention instruction

Intervention instruction is provided only to students who are lagging behind their classmates in the development of critical reading skills. This instruction will usually be guided by a specific intervention program that focuses on one or more of the key areas of reading development.

Intervention program

Provides content for instruction that is intended for flexible use as part of differentiated instruction and/or more intensive instruction to meet student learning needs in one or more of the specific areas of reading (phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). These programs are used to provide targeted, intensive intervention for small groups of struggling readers.

Invented spelling

Sound-based spelling where children create their own nonconventional spelling, based on their knowledge of the spelling system and how it works (e.g., ‘kt’ for cat).

Irregular words

Words that contain letters that stray from the most common sound pronunciation; words that do not follow common phonic patterns (e.g., were, was, laugh, been).

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A technique used most frequently with expository text to promote comprehension. It can be used as a type of graphic organizer in the form of a chart, and it consists of a 3-step process: What I Know (accessing prior knowledge), What I Want to Know (setting a purpose for reading), and What I Learned (recalling what has been read).


Language learning disability (LLD)

A language learning disability is a disorder that may affect the comprehension and use of spoken or written language as well as nonverbal language, such as eye contact and tone of speech, in both adults and children.

Learning communities

A group in which educators commit to ongoing learning experiences with a deliberate intent to transform teaching and learning at their school or within their district.

Learning disability (LD)

A learning disability is a disorder that affects people's ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. It may also be referred to as a learning disorder or a learning difference.

Letter combinations

Also referred to as digraphs, a group of consecutive letters that represents a particular sound(s) in the majority of words in which it appears (e.g., /ai/ in maid; /ch/ in chair; /ar/ in car; /kn/ in know; /ng/ in ring).

Letter-sound correspondence

The matching of an oral sound to its corresponding letter or group of letters.

Letter knowledge

The ability to identify the names and shapes of the letters of the alphabet.

Limited English proficient (LEP)

Limited English proficient is the term used by the federal government, most states, and local school districts to identify those students who have insufficient English to succeed in English-only classrooms. Increasingly, English language learner (ELL) or English learner (EL) are used in place of LEP.

Listening vocabulary

The words needed to understand what is heard.


Includes all the activities involved in speaking, listening, reading, writing, and understanding both spoken and written language.

Local education agency (LEA)

A local education agency is a public board of education or other public authority within a state that maintains administrative control of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district or other political subdivision of a state.

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Main idea

The central thought or message of a reading passage.


An awareness of one’s own thinking processes and how they work. The process of consciously thinking about one’s learning or reading while actually being engaged in learning or reading. Metacognitive strategies can be taught to students; good readers use metacognitive strategies to think about and have control over their reading. For example, good readers use metacognition before reading when they clarify their purpose for reading and preview the text.


Teacher overtly demonstrates a strategy, skill, or concept that students will be learning.

Monitoring comprehension

Readers who monitor their comprehension know when they understand what they read and when they do not. Students are able to use appropriate "fix-up" strategies to resolve problems in comprehension.


A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of language. A morpheme can be one syllable (book) or more than one syllable (seventeen). It can be a whole word or a part of a word such as a prefix or suffix. For example, the word ungrateful contains three morphemes: un, grate, and ful.

Morphemic analysis

An analysis of words formed by adding prefixes, suffixes or other meaningful word units to a base word.

Morphemic relationship

The morphemic relationship is the relationship between one morpheme and another. In the word books, book is a free morpheme (it has meaning by itself) and -s is a bound morpheme (it has meaning only when attached to a free morpheme).


Units of meaning within words. The study of how words are formed from prefixes, roots, and suffixes (e.g., mis-spell-ing), and how words are related to each other.


Morphophonology is using a word's letter patterns to help determine, in part, the meaning and pronunciation of a word. For example, the morpheme vis in words such as vision and visible is from the Latin root word that means to see; and the ay in stay is pronounced the same in the words gray and play.

Most common letter sounds

The sound that is usually pronounced for the letter when it appears in a short word, such as /a/ apple.

Multisensory structured language education

Multisensory structured language education uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile cues simultaneously to enhance memory and learning. Links are consistently made between the visual (what we see), auditory (what we hear), and kinesthetic-tactile (what we feel) pathways in learning to read and spell.

Multisyllabic words

These are words with more than one syllable. A systematic introduction of prefixes, suffixes, and multisyllabic words should occur throughout a reading program. The average number of syllables in the words students read should increase steadily throughout the grades.

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Naming speed

Naming speed is the rate at which a child can recite "overlearned" stimuli such as letters and single-digit numbers.

Narrative text

A story about fictional or real events.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965. The act contains President George W. Bush's four basic education reform principles: stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on teaching methods based on scientifically-based research.

Nonverbal learning disability

Nonverbal learning disability is a neurological disorder which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain. Reception of nonverbal or performance-based information governed by this hemisphere is impaired in varying degrees, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative, and holistic processing functions.

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Measurable statements detailing the desired accomplishments of a program.

Onset and rime

Onset and rime are two parts of a word. The onset is the initial consonant sound, blend, or digraph in a single syllable word or syllable. Not all words have onsets, such as the word oar. The rime is the first vowel phoneme followed by all the other phonemes (at in rat; esh in fresh). Words that share the same rime are considered rhyming words (e.g., fresh, mesh, flesh).

Onset-rime segmentation

Onset-rime segmentation is separating a word into the onset, the consonant(s) at the start of a syllable, and the rime, the remainder of the syllable. For example, in swift, sw is the onset and ift is the rime.

Oral language

Spoken language. There are five components of oral language: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.

Oral language difficulties

A child with oral language difficulties may exhibit poor vocabulary, listening comprehension, or grammatical abilities for his or her age.

Orthographic knowledge

Orthographic knowledge is understanding that the sounds in a language are represented by written or printed symbols.

Orthographic mapping

The ability to identify words by sight (i.e., sight words) allowing instant recognition. Orthographic mapping is required for effortless, accurate, and fluent reading. 


The conventional spelling and writing system of a language.

Orton-Gillingham (O-G)

Orton-Gillingham is a multisensory approach to remediating dyslexia created by Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist.

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The pace of a lesson should move briskly, but not so fast as to rush students beyond their ability to answer correctly. The purposes for a fast pace are to help students pay close attention to the material being presented, and provide students more practice time which increases the opportunity for greater student achievement, keeps students actively engaged, and reduces behavior management problems by keeping students on-task.

Partner/peer reading

Students reading aloud with a partner, taking turns to provide word identification help and feedback.


How instruction is carried out or the method and practice of teaching.

Phases of word learning

  • Pre-alphabetic

    Sight word learning at the earliest period. Children do not form letter-sound connections to read words; if they are able to read words at all, they do so by remembering selected visual features.

  • Partial alphabetic

    Children learn the names or sounds of alphabet letters and use these to remember how to read words. However, they form connections between only some of the letters and sounds in words, often only the first and final letter-sounds.

  • Full alphabetic

    Children can form complete connections between letters in written words and phonemes in pronunciations.

  • Consolidated alphabetic

    Readers operate with multi-letter units that may be morphemes, syllables, or subsyllabic units such as onsets and rimes. Common spelling patterns become consolidated into letter chunks, and these chunks make it easier to read words.


Phonemes are the smallest parts of spoken language that combine to form words. For example, the word bat is made up of three phonemes: /b/, /a/, and /t/. If you change the first phoneme in bat from /b/ to /p/, the word becomes pat. Most linguists agree that English has about 44 phonemes: 19 vowel phonemes and 25 consonant phonemes.

  • Phoneme addition

    In this activity, children make a new word by adding a phoneme to an existing word. (Teacher: What word do you have if you add /s/ to the beginning of park? Children: spark.)

  • Phoneme blending

    In this activity, children learn to listen to a sequence of separately spoken phonemes, and then combine the phonemes to form a word. (Teacher: What word is /b/ /i/ /g/? Children: /b/ /i/ /g/ is big.)

  • Phoneme categorization

    In this activity, children recognize the word in a set of three or four words that has the "odd" sound. (Teacher: Which word doesn't belong? bun, bus, rug. Children: Rug does not belong. It doesn't begin with a /b/.)

  • Phoneme deletion

    In this activity, children learn to recognize the word that remains when a phoneme is removed from another word. (Teacher: What is smile without the /s/? Children: Smile without the /s/ is mile.)

  • Phoneme identity

    In this activity, children learn to recognize the same sounds in different words. (Teacher: What sound is the same in fix, fall, and fun? Children: The first sound, /f/, is the same.)

  • Phoneme isolation

    In this activity, children learn to recognize and identify individual sounds in a word. (Teacher: What is the first sound in van? Children: The first sound in van is /v/.)

  • Phoneme segmentation

    In this activity, children break a word into its separate sounds, saying each sound as they tap out or count it. (Teacher: How many sounds are in grab? Children: /g/ /r/ /a/ /b/. Four sounds.)

  • Phoneme substitution

    In this activity, children substitute one phoneme for another to make a new word. (Teacher: The word is bug. Change /g/ to /n/. What's the new word? Children: bun.)

Phoneme manipulation

Adding, deleting, and substituting sounds in words (e.g., add /b/ to oat to make boat; delete /p/ in pat to make at; substitute /o/ for /a/ in pat to make pot).

Phonemic awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. An example of how beginning readers show us they have phonemic awareness is combining or blending the separate sounds of a word to say the word ("/c/ /a/ /t/ - cat.")


A method for teaching reading by applying the systematic, predictable relationship between written letters and spoken sounds (the alphabetic principle).

  • Analogy-based phonics

    In this approach, children are taught to use parts of words they have already learned to read and decode words they don't know. They apply this strategy when the words share similar parts in their spellings, for example, reading screen by analogy to green. Children may be taught a large set of key words for use in reading new words.

  • Analytic phonics

    In this approach, children learn to analyze letter-sound relationships in previously learned words. They do not pronounce sounds in isolation.

  • Embedded phonics

    In this approach, children learn vocabulary through explicit instruction on the letter-sound relationships during the reading of connected text, usually when the teacher notices that a child is struggling to read a particular word. Letter-sound relationships are taught as part of sight word reading. If the sequence of letter-sounds is not prescribed and sequenced, but is determined by whatever words are encountered in text, then the program is not systematic or explicit.

  • Onset-rime phonics instruction

    In this approach, children learn to break monosyllabic words into their onsets (consonants preceding the vowel) and rimes (vowel and following consonants). They read each part separately and then blend the parts to say the whole word.

  • Phonics through spelling

    In this approach, children learn to segment words into phonemes and to make words by writing letters for phonemes.

  • Synthetic phonics

    In this instructional approach, children learn how to convert letters or letter combinations into a sequence of sounds, and then how to blend the sounds together to form recognizable words.

  • Systematic and explicit phonics instruction

    The most effective way to teach phonics. A program is systematic if the plan of instruction includes a carefully selected set of letter-sound relationships that are organized into a logical sequence. Explicit means the programs provide teachers with precise directions for the teaching of these relationships.


A succession of letters that represent the same phonological unit in different words, such as “igh” in flight, might, tight, sigh, and high.

Phonological awareness

The ability to recognize that spoken words are made up of individual sounds. It includes (from simplest to most complex) word awareness, recognition of rhyme and alliteration, syllable awareness, onset and rime blending, and phonemic awareness.

Point of view*

Chiefly in literary texts, the narrative point of view (as in first- or third-person narration); more broadly, the position or perspective conveyed or represented by an author, narrator, speaker, or character.


Appropriate word choice and use in context to communicate effectively.


A morpheme that precedes a root and that contributes to or modifies the meaning of a word as “re” in reprint.

Print awareness

The knowledge that printed words carry meaning and that reading and writing are ways to get ideas and information. Print awareness is basic knowledge about print and how it is typically organized on a page. For example, print conveys meaning, print is read left to right, and words are separated by spaces. A young child’s sensitivity to print is one of the first steps toward reading.

Print structure

A component of concepts of print, print structure icludes the knowledge of letters, words, and sentences in a text or book; spaces between words; capitalization; and punctuation.

Prior knowledge

Refers to schema, the knowledge and experience that readers bring to the text.


A student performance that meets the criterion established in the Standards as measured by a teacher or assessment; in the Standards, often paired with independent(ly) to suggest a successful student performance done without scaffolding; in the Reading standards, the act of reading a text with comprehension; see also independent(ly), scaffolding.

Progress monitoring

Tests that keep the teacher informed about the child’s progress in learning to read during the school year. These assessment results provide a quick sample of critical reading skills that will inform the teacher if the child is making adequate progress toward grade level reading ability at the end of the year.

Pronunciation guide

A key or guide consisting of graphic symbols that represent particular speech sounds.


Reading with expression, proper intonation, and phrasing. This helps readers to sound as if they are speaking the part they are reading. It is also this element of fluency that sets it apart from automaticity.

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The speed at which a person reads.

Readability level

Refers to independent, instructional, and frustrational levels of text reading.

Reading comprehension

See text comprehension.

Reading centers

Special places organized in the classroom for students to work in small groups or pairs, either cooperatively or individually. Students work in centers while the teacher is conducting small group reading instruction. Each center contains meaningful, purposeful activities that are an extension and reinforcement of what has already been taught by the teacher in reading groups or in a large group. Reading centers offer students the opportunity to stay academically engaged as they apply the skills they have been learning.

Reading disability

Reading disability (RD) is another term for dyslexia. It is also sometimes referred to as reading disorder or reading difference.

Reading fluency prorating formula

When students are asked to read connected text for more than one minute or less than one minute, their performance must be prorated to give a fluency rate per minute. The prorating formula for this is the following: words read correctly x 60 ÷ by the number of seconds = Reading Fluency Score.

Reading vocabulary

The words needed to understand what is read.

Receptive language

Language that is heard.

Reciprocal teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a multiple-strategy instructional approach for teaching comprehension skills to students. Teachers teach students four strategies: asking questions about the text they are reading; summarizing parts of the text; clarifying words and sentences they don't understand; and predicting what might occur next in the text.

Regular words

Any word in which each letter represents its respective, most common sound (e.g., sat, fantastic).

Repeated and monitored oral reading

In this instructional activity, students read and reread a text a certain number of times or until a certain level of fluency is reached. This technique has been shown to improve reading fluency and overall reading achievement. Four re-readings are usually sufficient for most students. Students may also practice reading orally through the use of audiotapes, tutors, peer guidance, or other means.


Recalling the content of what was read or heard.


A part of writing and preparing presentations concerned chiefly with a reconsideration and reworking of the content of a text relative to task, purpose, and audience; compared to editing, a larger-scale activity often associated with the overall content and structure of a text; see also editing, rewriting.


A part of writing and preparing presentations that involves largely or wholly replacing a previous, unsatisfactory effort with a new effort, better aligned to task, purpose, and audience, on the same or a similar topic or theme; compared to revising, a larger-scale activity more akin to replacement than refinement; see also editing, revising.


The "onset" is the initial phonological unit of any word (e.g. c in cat) and the term "rime" refers to the string of letters that follow, usually a vowel and final consonants (e.g. at in cat). Not all words have onsets.


Words that have the same ending sound.


A bound morpheme, usually of Latin origin, that cannot stand alone but is used to form a family of words with related meanings.

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Scaffolded instruction

Instruction in which adults build upon what children already know and provide temporary support that allows children to perform more complex tasks. Scaffolding may be part of the instructional design, such as starting with simpler skills and building progressively to more difficult skills.


Refers to prior knowledge, the knowledge and experience that readers bring to the text.


The vowel sound sometimes heard in an unstressed syllable and that most often sounds like /uh/ or the short /u/ sound. Example: the "a" in again or balloon. All English vowels have a schwa sound.

Scientifically Based Reading Research (SBRR)

Refers to empirical research that applies rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain valid knowledge. This includes research that: employs systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment; has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective and scientific review; involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions drawn; relies on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers and across multiple measurements and observations; and can be generalized.

Scope and sequence

A “roadmap” or “blueprint” for teachers that provides an overall picture of an instructional program and includes the range of teaching content and the order or sequence in which it is taught.


An informal inventory that provides the teacher a beginning indication of the student’s preparation for grade level reading instruction. It is a “first alert” that a child may need extra help to make adequate progress in reading during the year.


Separating the individual phonemes, or sounds, of a word into discrete units.


Self-monitoring is the mental act of knowing when one does and does not understand what one is reading. When students use self-monitoring strategies, they actively think about how they are learning or understanding the material, activities, or reading in which they are engaged.

Semantic feature analysis

Uses a grid to help explore how a set of things are related to one another. By analyzing the grid one can see connections, make predictions, and master important concepts.

Semantic maps

Portray the schematic relations that compose a concept; a strategy for graphically representing concepts.


The way language conveys meaning.

Set for variability

A child’s ability to address the mismatch between the decoded form of a word (the oral language result of applying phonics rules to a word) and their stored word pronunication knowledge (how similarly spelled words are pronounced). A child’s set for variability is important for individual word-reading and overall reading ability.

Sight words

Words that a reader recognizes without having to sound them out. Some sight words are considered to irregular, or high-frequency words (e.g., the Dolch and Fry lists). However, any word that is recognized automatically is a sight word. These words may be phonetically regular or irregular.

Social English

Often referred to as "playground English" or "survival English", this is the basic language ability required for face-to-face communication, often accompanied by gestures and relying on context to aid understanding. Social English is much more easily and quickly acquired than academic English, but is not sufficient to meet the cognitive and linguistic demands of an academic classroom. Also referred to as Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS).

Sound to symbol

Phonics instruction that matches phoneme to grapheme.

Sound chaining or sound chains

A sound manipulation exercise where you change a single sound from one word to the next. Example: lip to sip to tip to tin to ten). Beginning readers should start with simple CVC words.

Speaking vocabulary

The words used when speaking.

Speech language pathologist

A speech language pathologist is an expert who can help children and adolescents who have language disorders to understand and give directions, ask and answer questions, convey ideas, and improve the language skills that lead to better academic performance. An SLP can also counsel individuals and families to understand and deal with speech and language disorders.


The rate at which a student reads.

Spelling patterns

Refers to digraphs, vowel pairs, word families, and vowel variant spellings.

Standard English*

In the Standards, the most widely accepted and understood form of expression in English in the United States; used in the Standards to refer to formal English writing and speaking; the particular focus of Language standards 1 and 2 (CCSS, pp. 26, 28, 52, 54).

State education agency (SEA)

A state education agency is the agency primarily responsible for the state supervision of public elementary and secondary schools.

Stop sounds

A stop sound can only be said for an instant, otherwise its sound will be distorted (i.e., / b/, /c/ /d/, /g/, /h/, /j/, /k/, /p/, /q/, /t/, /x/). Words beginning with stop sounds are more difficult for students to sound out than words beginning with a continuous sound.

Story elements

Characters, problem, solutions, themes, settings, and plot.

Story grammar

The general structure of stories that includes story elements.

Story maps

A strategy used to unlock the plot and important elements of a story. These elements can be represented visually through various graphic organizers showing the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Answering the questions of who, where, when, what, and how or why, and listing the main events is also part of story mapping. These elements are also referred to as story grammar.

Story structure

In story structure, a reader sees the way the content and events of a story are organized into a plot. Students learn to identify the categories of content (setting, characters, initiating events, internal reactions, goals, attempts, and outcomes) and how this content is organized into a plot. Often students recognize the way the story is organized by developing a story map. This strategy improves students' comprehension and memory of story content and meaning.

Strategic learners

Active learners. While reading these learners make predictions, organize information, and interact with the text. They think about what they are reading in terms of what they already know. They monitor their comprehension by employing strategies that facilitate their understanding.

Structural analysis

A procedure for teaching students to read words formed with prefixes, suffixes, or other meaningful word parts.

Student friendly explanation

An explanation of the word’s meaning rather than a definition.

  1. Characterizes the word and how it is typically used.
  2. Explains the meaning in everyday language.


An affix attached to the end of a base, root, or stem that changes the meaning or grammatical function of the word, as “en” in oxen.


Reducing large selections of text to their bare essentials: the gist, the key ideas, the main points that are worth noting and remembering. Teaching students to summarize helps them generate main ideas, connect central ideas, eliminate redundant and unnecessary information, and remember what they read.

Supplemental instruction

Supplemental Instruction is instruction that goes beyond that provided by the comprehensive core program because the core program does not provide enough instruction or practice in a key area to meet the needs of the students in a particular classroom or school. For example, teachers in a school may observe that their comprehensive core program does not provide enough instruction in vocabulary, or in phonics, to adequately meet the needs of the majority of their students. They could then select a supplemental program in these areas to strengthen the initial instruction and practice provided to all students.

Supplemental services

Students from low-income families who are attending schools that have been identified as in need of improvement for two years will be eligible to receive outside tutoring or academic assistance. Parents can choose the appropriate services for their child from a list of approved providers. The school district will purchase the services.


A syllable is a unit of pronunciation or word part that contains only one vowel sound (e-vent, news-pa-per).

Syllable types

There are six syllable types:

  • Closed: cat, cobweb
  • Open: he, silo
  • Vowel-consonant-e (VCE): like, milestone
  • Consonant-l-e: candle, juggle (second syllable)
  • R-controlled: star, corner
  • Vowel pairs: count, rainbow


Syllabication is the act of breaking words into syllables.

Symbol to sound

Matching grapheme to phoneme.


Words that have similar meanings.


Phrase and sentence structure (grammar).

Synthetic phonics

See phonics.

Systematic instruction

A carefully planned sequence for instruction, similar to a builder’s blueprint for a house. Systematic instruction is carefully thought out, strategic, and designed before activities and lessons are planned. Lessons build on previously taught information, from simple to complex.

Systematic phonics instruction

Systematic phonics programs teach children an extensive, pre-specified set of letter-sound correspondences or phonograms. Systematic Review: A planned review of previously learned materials.

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Target words

Are specifically addressed, analyzed, and/or studied in curriculum lessons, exercises, and independent activities.

Text complexity*

The inherent difficulty of reading and comprehending a text combined with consideration of reader and task variables; in the Standards, a three-part assessment of text difficulty that pairs qualitative and quantitative measures with reader-task considerations (CCSS, pp. 31, 57; Reading, pp. 4–16).

Text comprehension

A range of text difficulty corresponding to grade spans within the Standards; specifically, the spans from grades 2–3, grades 4–5, grades 6–8, grades 9–10, and grades 11–CCR (college and career readiness).

Textual evidence

See evidence.

Text features

A component of concepts of print, includes knowledge of the features in a text or book, such as page numbers, table of contents, illustrations and photographs, chapter titles, headings, captions, labels, infographics, and diagrams.

Text structure

The various patterns of ideas that are embedded in the organization of text (e.g., cause-effect, comparison-contrast, story grammar).


During shared read aloud, teachers reveal their thinking processes by verbalizing: connections, questions, inferences, and predictions.

Timed reading

Student reads appropriate text with a predetermined number of words to be read within a specific amount of time.

Trade book

A book intended for general reading that is not a textbook.

Train-the-trainer model

A capacity-building plan to develop master trainers who then deliver the program information to users.

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Useful words

Words that might be unknown to the student, but critical to passage understanding and words that students are likely to encounter in the future.

Useful letter sounds

Letters that appear frequently in words. Beginning readers can decode more words when they know several useful letters. Knowing the sounds of /m/, /a/, /t/, and /i/ is more advantageous than the sounds /x/, /q/ /y/, and /z/. Other useful letter sounds are /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/, /b/, /c/, /d/, /f/, /g/, /h/, /k/, /l/, /n/, /p/, and /r/.

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Variant correspondences

Various corresponding spelling patterns for a specific sound or a variety of spelling patterns for one sound (e.g., long a spelled a, a_e, ai_, _ay).


Knowledge of the meaning and pronunciation of words. Listening vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when hearing them in oral speech. Speaking vocabulary refers to the words we use when we speak. Reading vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when seeing them in print. Writing vocabulary refers to the words we use in writing.

Vowel digraph or vowel pair

Two vowels together that represent one phoneme, or sound (e.g., ea, ai, oa).

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With prompting and support/with (some) guidance and support

See scaffolding.

Word attack

Word attack is an aspect of reading instruction that includes intentional strategies for learning to decode, sight read, and recognize written words.

Word family

Group of words that share a rime (a vowel plus the consonants that follow; e.g., -ame, -ick,-out).

Word learning strategies

Strategies students use to learn words such as: decoding, analyzing meaningful parts of words, using analogy, using context clues, using a dictionary (student friendly definitions), glossary, or other resources.

Word parts

Letters, onsets, rimes, syllables that, when combined, result in words. Word parts include affixes (prefixes and suffixes), base words, and word roots. The ability to recognize various word parts in multisyllabic words is beneficial in decoding unfamiliar words.

Word roots

Word roots are words from other languages that are the origin of many English words. About 60 percent of all English words have Latin or Greek origins.

Word study

Instruction that focuses on close investigation of words. Examples include learning to decode more complex words based on associated word meanings and identification of word parts (such as affixes and root words), vocabulary-building exercises, and spelling practice. Word study helps students learn about predictable patterns in English and read new words by applying word analysis and structural analysis skills. 

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Reading intervention specialist working one-on-one with an elementary student struggling readers

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