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504 plan

A 504 plan is a legal document created for a child who has a confirmed or suspected disability to ensure they receive accommodations critical to their academic success.


Academic language

Academic language includes vocabulary, grammar, and other aspects of communication that students must understand to learn and communicate in a school setting.

Academic progress

Academic progress is a measure of how a child’s performance in school changes over time compared with their peers.


An accommodation changes how a student learns classroom material.


Accuracy refers to reading words correctly. It is one of three components of fluent reading (accuracy, automaticity, and prosody).


Activities include tools and materials used in instruction to practice skills that have been explicitly taught. Activities are best used independently by students only when mastery of required skills has been demonstrated.

Adequately progressing

Students are considered adequately progressing when they score at or above the benchmark on a screener. This indicates that they are acquiring the reading skills expected for their grade level.


An affix is a word part added to the beginning or end of a root word to change the meaning (e.g., “un-” meaning not, “-able” meaning capable of, and “-ed” to indicate past tense). 


The aimline is a line in a progress monitoring graph that represents the expected rate of academic growth for a student.

Alphabet skills

Alphabet skills include the knowledge and ability to read, write, and say the letters of the alphabet.

Alphabetic principle

The alphabetic principle is the knowledge that (a) words are composed of letters and (b) there is a predictable pattern between specific letters or letter combinations and the sounds they represent.

Analytic skills

Analytic skills are used to decode, or read, whole words by breaking them into their component parts. They encompass reading (receptive language) and speaking (expressive language).  


Approximation is a kind of paraphrasing in which a speaker replaces an unknown word with another word that has the same approximate meaning.

Assessment practices

Assessment practices are the process of gathering data about an area of learning through tests, observations, work samples, and other means to help inform instruction.

Assistive technology

Assistive technology refers to devices, software, or equipment that help children with reading disabilities complete academic and everyday tasks. Examples include applications for assisting with handwriting, reading text aloud, or allowing children to write using their voice.

At risk

Students are considered to be at risk when they score below benchmark on a screener during a single screening window, or if they score at or above benchmark after having been designated persistently at risk during the previous screening window.

Authentic texts

Authentic texts are written works that have been composed for real-life purposes (e.g., letters, newspaper articles, novels) to entertain, inform, or persuade rather than texts written for learning a specific reading skill (e.g., to emphasize a particular phonics pattern or text structure).   


Automaticity is the ability to read words accurately and effortlessly upon sight.


Background knowledge

Background knowledge refers to a reader’s previous experiences with and learning about a topic or concept in a text. It is information the reader already knows and can use to make sense of new information in a text. It is also referred to as “prior knowledge” or “schema.”

Balanced literacy

Balanced literacy is a philosophical approach to literacy instruction that involves minimal systematic teaching of skills such as phonics, decoding, and spelling. Students are taught to read unknown words using pictures or context clues. This approach focuses on shared, guided, and independent reading.

Base words

Base words can stand on their own or can serve as part of another word (e.g., “lock” and “unlock”). 

Benchmark score

A benchmark score is an expected or target score for a particular skill based on a student's grade level and the time of year.


A blend refers to (a) combining the sounds of two or more letters to make one fluid sound (e.g., “bl,” “qu,” “ing”) or (b) combining phonemes to make one fluidly pronounced word.



Circumlocution is a kind of paraphrasing in which a speaker uses entire phrases to describe the characteristics of an unknown word.

Closed-ended questions

Closed-ended questions are questions that require a one-word or very short response (e.g., “Do you like sports?” or “Are you from Iowa?”). They do not encourage elaboration or conversation.

Closed syllable

A closed syllable has one vowel followed by one or more consonants. The vowel has a short sound. Examples include “cat,” “rab/bit,” and “scratch.”


Code-switching is when a speaker alternates between two or more languages or dialects.

Composite score

A composite score is a single score that summarizes a student’s overall performance based on a variety of assessments. For example, in a class, homework assignments, in-class activities, quizzes, tests, projects, and participation all contribute to a student’s final grade.

Compound word

A compound word is two or more single words that are combined to create a new word (e.g., “lighthouse,” “backache,” “classmate”). 


Comprehension is the ability to make meaning from text. It involves interpreting and understanding written words, and it depends on word recognition, fluency, and language comprehension.

Concepts of print

See print awareness.

Connected text

Connected text refers to sentences and paragraphs rather than words in isolation.


A consonant is a phoneme (an individual speech sound) made by partly or completely blocking airflow in the mouth with the teeth, lips, or tongue.

Consonant blend

A consonant blend refers to two or three consonants within a syllable that come before or after a vowel. Each consonant maintains its individual sound. Examples include “gr” in “grow” or “scr” in “scream.”

Consonant digraph

A consonant digraph consists of two consonants that, together, represent one phoneme. For example, the consonants “p” and “h” form the grapheme “ph” that can represent the /f/ sound in words like “graph” and “phone.”

Consonant trigraph

Consonant trigraphs are made of three consonants that appear next to each other in the same syllable and represent a single sound (e.g., “tch” in “watch”).

Consonant-le syllable 

The consonant-le syllable contains a consonant followed by the letters “le,” representing the /ul/ sound. This syllable is typically found at the end of a word. “Eagle,” “turtle,” and “bumble” are all examples of words that contain consonant-le syllables.

Context clues

Context clues are hints (e.g., definitions, examples, explanations, synonyms, antonyms) that authors include in a sentence or passage to help readers determine the meaning of words.

Contingency Learning Plan

“The CLP is completed as a component of the IEP process, and will address how goals, special education services, supports, activities and accommodations will be addressed if disruptions in school occur” (Iowa IDEA Information, 2022).

Corrective feedback

Corrective feedback is used to tell students the right way of practicing a skill or activity so that they do not continue to practice the skill or activity in an incorrect way.

Cumulative instruction

Cumulative instruction is when each step of instruction is based on concepts that have been previously taught, and concepts build off each other.


A curriculum encompasses the instructional plan set at the district level, comprising elements such as lessons, assessments, scope and sequence, instructional methods, district and building objectives, and graduation requirements. It serves as the guiding “road map” for achieving the Common Core State Standards (Learning List, 2018).

Curriculum-based measurement (CBM)

A curriculum-based measurement tracks an individual student’s progress toward an annual goal (e.g., reading at least 132 words correctly per minute with an accuracy of 95% or more). It is also used to evaluate the success of the instruction the child is receiving.


Data-based decision making

Data-based decision making is the process of gathering evidence and data of student literacy learning to inform education and teaching decisions.

Decodable texts

Decodable texts are books or passages written to practice a specific phonics pattern in early literacy instruction. For example, a decodable text written to practice the VCe pattern would contain words following that pattern such as “race,” “nice,” and “rose.” Decodable texts contain mostly regular words and some high-frequency irregular words so that students can read independently.

Decodable words

Decodable words can be sounded out based on sound-spelling correspondences that students have been taught. 


Decoding involves applying knowledge of sound-spelling correspondences to convert the graphemes in a word to the sounds they represent and then blending the sounds together to read the word.

Diagnostic assessment

Diagnostic assessments are designed to identify the specific skill(s) a student is struggling with.   

Diagnostic instruction

Diagnostic instruction is designed in response to students’ performance on both informal and formal assessments. Teachers identify students’ strengths and areas for improvement, and they target instruction to address students’ demonstrated needs.


A dialect is a variation of a language used by a particular group of people based on their culture, region, and/or social group.


Differentiation involves adapting instruction to fit the needs of each student. This includes providing any necessary supports, resources, or scaffolds to make the lesson appropriately challenging for each student.


Diphthongs consist of two connected vowel sounds that glide into each other (e.g., “oi” in “soil”). Syllables with diphthongs sometimes are considered a subset of the vowel-team syllable type, and sometimes they are distinguished as a separate syllable type.


Discourse is spoken or written communication, usually extending beyond a single sentence, occurring between individuals or between an author and a reader.

Double deficit

Students with a double deficit have both weak phonological awareness skills and poor rapid naming speed.


According to the International Dyslexia Association, “Dysgraphia is the condition of impaired letter-writing by hand, that is, disabled handwriting. Impaired handwriting can interfere with learning to spell words in writing and speed of writing text. Children with dysgraphia may have only impaired handwriting, only impaired spelling (without reading problems), or both impaired handwriting and impaired spelling.”


According to the International Dyslexia Association, “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”


Early literacy implementation (ELI)

Early literacy implementation (ELI) is legislation providing guidelines for evidence-based instruction to teachers. It outlines requirements for assessing early readers in their literacy skills and abilities and describes how to provide extra support and intervention for nonproficient students.


Encoding is the process of segmenting a word into individual sounds and then applying knowledge of phonics to convert the sounds in the word into the graphemes that represent the sounds.

English learner

“English learner” is a federally defined category that describes students who may not display an educational benefit from instruction when it is delivered in English. This category includes multiple defining criteria (e.g., the student’s native language is not English and/or they were not born in the United States).   

Error correction

Error correction is a type of performance feedback in which an educator or peer identifies an error made by a student during reading or writing and explains how to correct the error. The student then practices that correction with the support of the educator or peer.

Experimental research

Experimental research aims to determine whether a certain treatment influences a measurable outcome—for example, whether a certain instructional method influences students’ reading comprehension scores. To do this, participants are divided into two groups: an experimental group, which receives the treatment, and a control group, which does not receive the treatment. In an experimental study, these groups are randomly assigned, meaning each participant has equal probability of being in either the treatment or the control group. Both groups are tested before and after the treatment, and their results are compared.

Explicit instruction

In explicit instruction, teachers directly model and explain what students are expected to do. They break information into smaller chunks and introduce each chunk one at a time. They make the goals clear and specific so students understand what success looks like. Students have many opportunities to practice and receive feedback so they know what they need to do to improve.

Expository writing

The purpose of expository writing is to explain and inform without reference to the author’s opinions. Examples of expository writing include textbooks, journalism, and some informational essays.

Expressive vocabulary

Expressive vocabulary refers to words that children are able to use accurately while speaking and writing. It is sometimes referred to as productive vocabulary.



Fidelity refers to how closely a literacy intervention or instructional strategy is implemented according to its intended design or as determined by a school or district. This ensures alignment with evidence-based practices and consistency for students.


Fluency is the ability to read a text with appropriate expression or prosody, accuracy, and rate. 

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

As a requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) ensures that children with disabilities receive necessary resources to realize their educational potential.

To learn more about FAPE, take a look at this informational guide.


Freewriting is a writing exercise that involves quickly and continuously writing whatever comes to mind without concern for grammar, mechanics, or spelling.



A grapheme is one or more letters used to represent a phoneme. For example, the sound /k/ could be represented by any of the following graphemes: “c,” “k,” “ck,” “ch,” or “que.”

Guided practice

Guided practice is the portion of explicit instruction that follows teacher modeling and allows students an opportunity to practice the new skill or strategy with the assistance of a teacher. In later stages, guided practice is done with the assistance of a peer, but the teacher still provides positive and corrective feedback.


High-frequency words

High-frequency words include decodable and irregular words that occur so frequently in printed English that learning to read them with automaticity will increase reading fluency.

Home language

The home language is the language first taught and most used in the home during childhood (also referred to as first language or L1, mother tongue, or native language). 


Homographs are words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently and have different meanings (e.g., “I tied a bow around the present” vs. “I took a bow after my performance”).


Homonyms are two or more words that sound the same and are spelled the same but have different meanings (e.g., “I can read and write” vs. “I poured the soup out of the can”).


Homophones are two or more words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings (e.g., there, their, and they’re).



An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not literal. It is a phrase whose meaning is not deducible based on the individual words it contains (e.g., “when pigs fly” or “have a cow”).

Implicit learning

Implicit learning is incidental, unplanned, and unintentional. Implicit learning may occur as the byproduct of activities in which learning is not a conscious goal.

Independent practice

Independent practice is the part of explicit instruction that follows guided practice and provides students an opportunity to practice a new skill or strategy individually.

Individualized Education Program

According to the Iowa Department of Education, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is “a written statement for each individual with a disability, developed in accordance with Iowa’s administrative rules of special education, that describes the special education and support and related services that the individual will receive.”

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that created rules and guidelines for special education. The law gives eligible children with disabilities rights to the specially designed instruction and individualized services and supports they need to benefit from public education. The IDEA has six foundational principles. If your child has an IEP and is eligible for special education services, it is the IDEA and the six principles that guide how the services are designed and delivered.


An inference is a conclusion drawn by gathering evidence and making observations. Text-based inferences rely upon information from the passage that is combined with some form of prior knowledge.

Inferential language

Inferential language goes beyond what is explicitly stated in the text. This includes interpreting figurative language (including literary devices such as simile, metaphor, allusion, etc.), drawing conclusions, predicting outcomes, determining the mood, and judging the author’s point of view.

Informational text

The purpose of informational text is to tell the reader facts or information about a topic. Informational text also can be called nonfiction text and includes the categories of literary nonfiction, expository writing, argument or persuasion, and procedural writing.

Instructional programs/materials

Instructional programs/materials are products developed by publishers that are designed to enhance and support teachers in implementing the district’s curriculum on a day-to-day basis to achieve mastery of grade-level standards (Learning List, 2018).


Intervention is intensive, targeted instruction that focuses on the development of a specific skill (or skills) 

Irregular words

An irregular word is a word that contains one or more letters that do not follow typical letter-sound correspondences (e.g., “said,” “there,” “of”). These words are sometimes referred to as “heart” words because, while they are partially decodable, an element of the word needs to be remembered “by heart.”




Language comprehension

Language comprehension is the ability to make sense of spoken, written, or signed language. It involves interpreting and making sense of words, sentences, and overall discourse by utilizing background knowledge, vocabulary, knowledge of language structures, verbal reasoning skills, and literacy knowledge.   

Language structures

Language structures include syntax and semantics.

Learning disability

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (1990) defines a specific learning disability as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.”

Least Restrictive Environment

The Least Restrictive Environment is the educational environment in which a child with disabilities receives appropriate support and services while learning with peers who do not have disabilities.

Leveled texts

Leveled texts are categorized by difficulty based on factors such as word familiarity, sentence length and structure, and use of illustrations.

Literacy knowledge

Literacy knowledge includes print awareness, which is knowledge of the way print “works” in reading. For example, in English, words are read from left to right, top to bottom, and front to back. Literacy knowledge also involves an understanding of the different purposes of print (e.g., to provide directions, to share ideas, or to tell a story). It includes knowledge of the different forms of print, such as cards, signs, labels, charts, emails, instructions, and books.

Literal meaning

Literal meaning refers to the accepted definition of a word without interpretation or application of a figurative meaning.

Literary devices

Literary devices are expressive forms of writing (e.g., figurative language such as simile, metaphor, allusion, etc.) or deliberate constructions within a text (e.g., foreshadowing, flashback, irony) that are used to create deeper meaning and to convey the craft or artistry of the author. Literary devices allow for greater analysis and interpretation of a text.

Literary elements

Literary elements are parts of narrative writing that are common among all texts in the genre (e.g., plot, theme, character, setting, conflict, etc.).

Literary text

A literary text is a piece of writing with the purpose of entertaining its audience or telling a story. Literary text includes both literary devices and literary elements representative of the genre.



Mastery learning requires that a student can consistently perform a skill accurately and automatically before they move on to learning more complex skills.


Metacognition is the process of thinking about one’s own thinking. Students may engage in metacognition when they explain their thinking or ask themselves how they came to a certain answer.


A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a person or thing is described through a nonliteral comparison to another noun (e.g., “she is a shining star” or “the mall was a zoo”). Metaphors do not use the words “like” or “as.”


Miming is when a speaker uses nonverbal strategies like gestures to represent an unknown word.


Mnemonics are cues (visual or written) used to remember important information (e.g., “FANBOYS” is a mnemonic used to remember the coordinating conjunctions “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so”).


Modeling is the first phase of explicit instruction in which the teacher demonstrates and explains for students how to apply a particular skill or strategy.


A modification changes what a student learns.


A morpheme is the smallest part of a word that has meaning (e.g., “the” is a single morpheme; “pretest” has two morphemes: “pre,” meaning before, and “test”).

Morphological knowledge

Morphological knowledge is the understanding of morphemes, or the smallest meaningful parts of words, and how they can be combined to make words.


Morphology is the study of how words are formed using meaningful word parts.

Motivating readers

Motivating readers involves formal and informal activities that support children as they work to become readers. These include reading aloud; reading together; choosing books; choosing ways to respond to books; providing literacy-rich activities; and engaging in wide reading across a variety of genres, formats, and settings.

Multimodal text

A multimodal text uses more than one of the five systems (linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, and spatial) to convey meaning.

Multi-tiered system of support (MTSS)

Often used synonymously with Response to Intervention (RtI), this is a process by which schools use data to identify the academic and behavioral needs of students, match student needs with evidence-based instruction and interventions, and monitor student progress to improve educational outcomes.




The onset is the part of the syllable that occurs before the vowel. It can be a consonant sound (e.g., /s/ in “sip” or /sh/ in “ship”) or consonant blend (e.g., /s/ /l/ in “slip”).

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions require full-sentence responses and elicit the answerer’s thinking (e.g., “How are these two characters similar?” or “Why did she do that?”). These questions encourage elaboration or conversation.

Open syllable

An open syllable is a syllable that ends in one vowel. The vowel has a long sound.

Oral language

Oral language includes speaking and listening skills. These skills are the foundation of literacy development in children and serve as the basis for written language.

Orthographic knowledge

Orthographic knowledge is understanding of the rules and patterns used in written language.

Orthographic mapping

Orthographic mapping is the cognitive process in which the brain links the individual sounds of spoken language (phonemes) with their written representations (graphemes), allowing for quick and effortless word recognition and retrieval. 


Orthography is the conventional spelling system of a language, including rules and conventions for representing spoken sounds with written symbols. 



Paraphrasing is when a speaker describes or replaces an unknown word using other words that are known.

Peer mediation

Peer mediation is an instructional format in which students of the same age work together in pairs or small groups to complete an assignment. The students assume different roles (e.g., tutor, practice partner) and typically follow specified procedures to learn content and improve literacy skills.

Persistently at risk

Students are considered to be persistently at risk when they score below benchmark on a screener for two or more consecutive screening windows.


Personification is when an inanimate object or animal is given human-like qualities in a text.


Phonemes are the smallest units of sound in speech (e.g., the phonemes in “cat” are /k/, /ă/, /t/; the phonemes in “fish” are /f/, /ĭ/, /sh/).

Phonemic awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual phonemes—the smallest units of sound in speech (e.g., recognizing that the word “cat” is made of the three individual sounds /k/, /ă/, and /t/).

Phonemic manipulation

Phonemic manipulation is a complex phonemic awareness task that involves adding, deleting, or substituting individual sounds in a word (e.g., changing the short /ă/ sound in “cat” to the short /ŏ/ sound, and then identifying the new word, “cot”).


Phonics is instruction that focuses on the relationship between phonemes, the individual sounds of spoken language, and graphemes, the letters and letter combinations that represent those sounds.

Phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and distinguish the different sounds in spoken language and understand how those sounds can be combined to create language. It includes identifying and manipulating larger units of speech sounds—such as rhymes, syllables, and onset-rime—as well as individual units of sound by isolating, identifying, segmenting, adding, deleting, and substituting sounds in words.

Phonological loop

The phonological loop is an essential part of working memory that allows a person to temporarily store and manipulate verbal information.

Phonological processing

Phonological processing involves using phonemes to process written and spoken language. It includes phonological awareness, phonological memory, phonological retrieval, and rapid automatic naming. 

Phonological retrieval

Phonological retrieval is the ability to recall phonological information quickly and effortlessly.

Phonological working memory

Phonological working memory involves processing and storing sounds long enough to do something with them, such as successfully blending them together to create a word.


Phonology is the rule system within a language that describes how individual speech sounds (called phonemes) combine to produce language.

Positive feedback

Positive feedback is instructional information that a teacher provides a student to indicate specifically what the student did correctly and should continue doing to support their reading (e.g., “You did a nice job using the features of the syllables to figure out that the vowel is pronounced with its short sound in the word ‘cap’ and its long sound in the word ‘cape.’”)

Pragmatic language

Pragmatics is knowledge of the social uses of words and expressions in different contexts. Pragmatic language ability includes knowing what to say, how to say it, the associated body language, and the appropriateness of the communication when interacting with people in different situations.

Print awareness

Print awareness is a child’s understanding of the purposes and functions of written language. When developing print awareness, children learn that print carries meaning, that it is organized in a specific way, and that there are rules for how one reads and writes. This includes knowing that print is read from left to right and top to bottom, understanding the distinction between letters and words, and comprehending the conventions of printed text, such as punctuation and capitalization. Additionally, print awareness involves recognizing various forms of print, such as books, signs, and labels, and understanding their functions, whether for providing instructions, sharing ideas, or storytelling.

Prior knowledge

See background knowledge.

Prior Written Notice

A Prior Written Notice is a written document sent to the caregiver(s) of a child with an IEP that describes and explains any proposed changes to the child’s educational plan.

Productive vocabulary

See expressive vocabulary.

Progress monitoring

Progress monitoring involves frequent, brief assessments that measure a student’s progress toward a specific goal.

Progress monitoring assessments

Progress monitoring assessments are routine checks of student learning, progress, and growth, administered to students to determine if they are benefiting from instruction or intervention. Progress monitoring is typically done once a week over a period of time to track the child’s progress on targeted reading skills.


Prosody includes the rhythm, intonation, and stress used in spoken language.


Quasi-experimental research

In a quasi-experimental study, participants are not randomly assigned to groups. In educational research, groups are often assigned by classroom rather than through random assignment, making this kind of research quasi-experimental.


Rapid automatic naming (RAN)

Rapid automatic naming (RAN) is the ability to name a series of familiar items, such as letters, numbers, colors, or objects, quickly and automatically. RAN assessments indicate how efficiently phonological information can be accessed and retrieved from long-term memory, an important skill in reading development. 

Reading rate

Reading rate is often calculated by having a student read a passage aloud for 1 minute while the teacher counts the number of words that the student reads. This yields the words per minute or WPM score.


Realia are objects and materials from everyday life, especially when used as teaching aids.

Receptive vocabulary

Receptive vocabulary refers to words that children understand while reading or listening.


The rime is the vowel and any final consonants in a syllable (e.g., /ĭ//p/ in “sip,” “ship,” and “slip”).

Root cause

The root cause is a deep and fundamental reason for a specific literacy challenge or problem. Determining the root cause through a root cause analysis enables the creation of targeted actions to prevent the problem from reoccurring.


Routines are tasks between a teacher and student that cover classroom content using a consistent structure. These tasks maintain high expectations of student learning while assessing mastery of content. Routines remain consistent as content changes.



Scaffolding refers to temporary supports that help students do something so that they can complete a similar task alone. 


See background knowledge.


Schwa is the vowel sound in an unaccented syllable that can be spelled by an “a,” “e,” “i,” “o,” or “u.” In the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), it is represented by the symbol /ə/.

Science of reading

“The science of reading is a vast body of research from multiple fields (i.e., education, linguistics, psychology, neuroscience) and derives from multiple studies that explain how individuals learn to read and the practices most effective in maximizing student literacy outcomes. This body of research informs the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of teaching literacy (reading and writing). It also informs the focus of teacher preparation programs, the instructional materials districts select and the professional learning most likely to impact teaching and learning” (Iowa Department of Education, 2024).


Scope refers to the depth and breadth of the content to be taught at a specific grade level and across grade levels.

Scope and sequence

A scope and sequence is a road map for instruction that tells you two things: what to teach (scope) and when to teach it (sequence). A scope and sequence should be cumulative and systematic, meaning that students begin with simple concepts before advancing to more complex ones.


Segmenting involves splitting a word into pieces, such as by its phonemes, morphemes, or syllables. Students may use this strategy to identify an unfamiliar word encountered in print or to practice phonological awareness skills with spoken words.

Semantic map

A semantic map is a web of written words that is created to visually display the connections between a word and a set of other related words or concepts.


Semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences.


Sequence refers to the order in which content is taught to maximize learning by building on past knowledge within a grade level and across grade levels.

Shared reading

Shared reading involves an adult reading a book to children, stopping periodically to ask questions and explain vocabulary. The interaction during the reading is intended to build the children’s understanding of oral language and story elements (e.g., character, setting, plot).

Sight recognition

Sight recognition is the ability to recognize and read a word instantly and effortlessly, without the need for decoding. 

Sight words

Sight words can be recognized instantly and effortlessly, without the need for decoding.



A simile is a figure of speech that uses the words “like” or “as” to describe a person or thing through a nonliteral comparison to another noun (e.g., “he is as free as a bird” or “they fought like cats and dogs”).


Skill refers to the ability to perform tasks well, ranging from simple tasks such as naming a letter of the alphabet to more complex tasks such as analyzing literary texts. Skills are developed through practice and experience and can be executed automatically once mastered. 

SMART goal

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-specific goals set by an individual educator or team to reach a certain realistic literacy achievement.

Sound-symbol associations

See definition for phonics.


Spelling involves applying knowledge of phonics and morphology to convert the spoken units of a word into the correct graphemes that represent those sounds and recording those graphemes in the correct sequence. Also referred to as orthography, spelling is one skill in a person’s orthographic knowledge.


State standards indicate what students should know and be able to do at the end of the school year at each grade level. According to the Iowa Department of Education (updated 2024), standards are common, clear, and rigorous expectations that provide the framework that guides instructional decisions at the local level to help ensure that all students are college, career, and citizen ready. 


If reading is strategic, it means that a reader is using strategies like predicting, summarizing, identifying main ideas and details, visualizing, and understanding an author’s purpose and perspective in order to understand the meaning of a text.


A strategy is an instructional approach to a task, including expected outcomes of the task, required materials and tools, and how a person thinks and acts when planning, executing, and evaluating performance on a task.

Structured literacy

Structured literacy is an approach to reading instruction that is grounded in the science of reading. It includes instruction in the following concepts: phonology, orthography, syntax, semantics, and morphology. Structured literacy instruction is explicit, systematic, cumulative, and diagnostic.


A subtest is a section of a larger test that measures a student’s ability in a particular skill (e.g., spelling, vocabulary, comprehension).


A summary is a brief, concise statement of the most important information in a text.


A syllable is a word or portion of a word that contains one vowel sound and that may contain one or more consonant sounds. The six common syllable patterns are closed, open, vowel-consonant-e, r-controlled, vowel team, and consonant-le. Some programs also include diphthong.


Syntax refers to the order of words in a particular language—the rules that explain how words can and cannot combine.

Synthetic skills

Synthetic skills are used to encode, or spell, words by taking small components of language and putting them together. They encompass listening (receptive language) and writing (expressive language).

Systematic instruction

Instruction is systematic when the skills introduced progress logically and build off one another. Concepts move from less difficult to more difficult. Instruction starts with the smallest parts of language (letters and sounds) and progresses gradually to syllables, words, and sentences.


Text features

Text features are common components of texts, aside from the main body, that can give a reader additional information and help with navigating the text (e.g., table of contents, glossary, headings, graphics, captions, bold or italic font, etc.). Text features are often found in informational texts.

Text structure

Text structure refers to the organization of and relationship among the ideas in a text (e.g., sequence, compare and contrast, problem and solution, cause and effect).

Textual evidence

Textual evidence is literal information from the text that can be used to support a claim or inference.


A theme is a recurring idea or underlying message in a literary text.

Think aloud

A think aloud is when a teacher orally explains everything they are thinking and doing when practicing a particular skill or strategy. Think alouds allow students to hear how a skilled reader processes print or information and to understand what is expected when applying the skill or strategy.

Transition services

Transition services assist children with disabilities in the transition from high school to postsecondary activities, such as further education, employment, or independent living. Transition services begin to be planned at age 14 to ensure that students with disabilities are prepared for life after high school.


In translation, a speaker borrows a word or phrase from a different language to define, describe, or replace an unknown word.


A trendline is a line in a progress monitoring graph that represents a student's academic growth based on their performance on progress monitoring assessments.


Universal screening assessments

A universal screener is an assessment given to all students three times a year (fall, winter, and spring) to identify students who are potentially at risk for reading difficulties.

Unvoiced consonants

Unvoiced consonant sounds do not cause vibrations in the vocal cords. Examples include /p/ in “pet,” /k/ in “coat,” and /t/ in “ten.”


Verbal reasoning

Verbal reasoning involves understanding figurative and literal uses of language. It includes the ability to understand metaphors, analogies, idioms, and other figurative language.


Vocabulary refers to the words children understand or know how to use in written or spoken language.

Voiced consonants

Voiced consonant sounds are made by vibrating the vocal cords. Examples include /b/ in “bed,” /d/ in “dip,” and /g/ in “good.”

Vowel-consonant-e syllable

A vowel-consonant-e syllable contains a single vowel followed by a consonant and then the letter “e.” The “e” is silent but allows the preceding vowel to have the long sound.


A vowel-syllable contains a single vowel followed by the letter “r” (“ar,” “er,” “ir,” “or,” “ur”). The “r” gives the vowel a different sound that is neither long nor short.

Vowel team syllable

A vowel-team syllable contains a combination of two, three, or four letters that appear next to each other and form one vowel phoneme (e.g., the “ai” representing the /ā/ sound in rain, the “igh” representing the /ī/ sound in night, and the “eigh” representing the /ā/ sound in sleigh).



Writing is the process of composing text to communicate knowledge and thoughts. Writing requires the coordination of many skills: vocabulary knowledge, organizational skills, higher-order thinking, and an understanding of genre, audience, text structures, voice, grammar, and mechanics. 

Writing mechanics

Writing mechanics are the basic components involved in the act of writing, including handwriting, typing, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure.

Writing prompt

A writing prompt provides direction to write about a particular topic. This may be presented in one or more sentences, or it may include a short passage, picture, or other content that serves as a starting point for the written response. The prompt also may include other directions that must be followed in producing the written response such as the kind of writing to do, audience to address, or length of the response.

Written expression

Written expression involves communicating coherent ideas through fluent writing that utilizes proper grammar (e.g., sentence structure, word usage) and mechanics (e.g., capitalization, punctuation, spelling). Written expression also includes applying the process of prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing to produce literary (e.g., fictional narratives, poems, dramas), informational, and opinion/persuasive texts.

Word identification

Word identification involves applying decoding skills (e.g., phonics, morphology) to read words accurately.

Word recognition

Word recognition involves effortlessly reading a word without having to decode it. This contrasts with word identification, which requires the application of decoding skills to read the word correctly.

Words correct per minute (WCPM) score

The words correct per minute (WCPM) score is a measure of a student’s reading rate. To calculate the WCPM score, a student reads a passage aloud for 1 minute while the assessment administrator records their errors. Then, the teacher subtracts the number of errors from the total number of words the student read.

Working memory

Working memory is the set of linked and interacting information processing components that maintain information in a short-term store (or retrieve information from that store) for the purpose of the active manipulation of the stored items. Working memory is the part of one’s memory that temporarily stores small amounts of information needed to perform tasks.