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Academic language

Vocabulary, grammar, and other aspects of communication that students must understand to learn and communicate in a school setting.


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). 

Alphabet skills

Knowledge and ability to read, write, and say the letters of the alphabet.

Alphabetic principle

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.


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

Assessment practices

The practice and process of gathering data about an area of learning through tests, observations, work samples, and other means to help inform instruction.

Assistive technology

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.

Authentic texts

Written work that has been composed for real-life purposes (e.g., letters, newspaper articles, novels), rather than texts written for learning a specific reading skill (e.g., to emphasize a particular phonics pattern or carefully contrived text structure).


The ability to read words effortlessly upon sight.


Background knowledge

A reader’s previous experiences with and learning about a topic or concept in a text; information the reader already knows and can use to make sense of new information in a text; also referred to as "prior knowledge."

Balanced literacy

A philosophical approach to literacy instruction that involves minimal systematic teaching of skills such as phonics, decoding, and spelling. This approach focuses on shared, guided, and independent reading.


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



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

Closed-ended questions

Questions that require a one-word or very short response; questions that do not encourage elaboration or conversation.

Closed syllable

A syllable with one vowel, followed by one or more consonants. The vowel has a short sound.


A speaker alternates between languages within or between sentences.

Compound word

Two or more single words that are combined to create a new word.


Making meaning from text by using prior knowledge, understanding vocabulary and concepts, making inferences, and forming connections between critical ideas. Some examples of comprehension strategies include predicting, summarizing, identifying main ideas and details, visualizing, and understanding an author’s purpose and perspective.

Connected text

Words that are not in isolation but that are used to form sentences and paragraphs.

Consonant digraph

Two or more consonants that, together, represent one sound or 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-le syllable 

A syllable typically found at the end of a word. It consists of a consonant followed by the letters le representing the /ul/ sound.

Context clues

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

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.


Data-based decision making

The process of gathering evidence and data of student literacy learning to inform education and teaching decisions.

Decodable texts

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 main words following that pattern such as racenice, and rose. Decodable texts contain mostly regular words and some high-frequency sight words so that students can read independently.


Applying knowledge of phonics to convert the letters or graphemes in a word to the sounds they represent, and then blending the sounds together to read the word.


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


Two connected vowel sounds that glide into each other (e.g., “oi” in soil and “ue” in blue). Sometimes considered a subset of the vowel team syllable type, and sometimes distinguished as its own, seventh category.


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."


English learner

A person who, by foreign birth or ancestry, speaks or understands a language other than English. 

Error correction

A type of performance feedback in which an educator or peer provides a student specific information about an error made during reading or writing, as well as the way to correct the error. The student then practices that correction with the support of the educator or peer.

Explicit instruction

The form of instruction in which a teacher directly states what it is students are expected to know and be able to do. Skills and strategies are taught to, rather than discovered by, students.



How closely implementation of a literacy intervention or instructional strategy is aligned to the way it was designed to be used.


Reading text at an appropriate pace/rate and with accuracy and expression to build understanding.


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



One or more letters used to represent a single sound or phoneme. For example, the sound /k/ could be represented by any of the following graphemes: c, k, ck, ch, or que.

Guided practice

The portion of explicit instruction that follows teacher modeling and that 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

Decodable and irregular words that occur so frequently in printed English that learning to read them on sight will increase reading fluency.

Home language

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). 


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.”).


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.”).


Two or more words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings (e.g., theretheir, and they’re).



An expression that has a figurative meaning, rather than the literal meaning of the words that make it up (e.g., “raining cats and dogs”).

Independent practice

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

A written legal document that outlines the specially-designed instruction supports and other services a student with a disability (such as a reading disability) needs to succeed in school, and the goals that will define that success.


A conclusion drawn from 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

Language that goes beyond what is explicitly stated in the text. This can include 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

A type of text with the purpose of telling the reader facts or information about a topic. Informational text also can be called a non-fiction text and includes the categories of literary nonfiction, expository, argument or persuasion, and procedural.

Irregular words

Sight words that do not follow the typical letter-sound correspondences and, therefore, must be recognized automatically (e.g., havethereof).





The system used to communicate has certain syntactic rules about how words should be ordered or sentences arranged and the grammatical structures of those words and sentences. There are also pragmatic language rules about the socially appropriate aspects of communicating in different contexts.

Leveled readers

Books intended to match the current reading ability, age, or grade of a student.

Literal meaning

The accepted definition of a word without interpretation or application of a figurative meaning.

Literary devices

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

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

Literary text

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



The process of thinking about one’s own thinking. Students may engage in metacognition when they explain their thinking, ask themselves how they came to a certain answer, etc.


A figure of speech in which a person or thing is described through comparison to another noun, but using a non-literal meaning of the likeness between them (e.g., “She is a shining star.” or “The mall was a zoo.”). Metaphors do not use the words “like” or “as.”


A speaker uses nonverbal strategies like gesture to represent an unknown word.


Using cues (visual or written) to remember important information.


The first phase of explicit instruction in which the teacher demonstrates and articulates for students what they are expected to do when applying a particular skill or strategy.


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”).


The study of how words are formed using meaningful word parts.

Motivating readers

Formal and informal activities that motivate and 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 text in which more than one of the five systems (linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, and spatial) are used to contribute meaning.

Multi-tiered system of support (MTSS)

Also known as 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 first consonant sound (e.g., /s/ in “sip”, /sh/ in ship) or consonant blend (e.g., /s/ /l/ in slip) in a syllable.

Open-ended questions

Questions that require full sentence responses and that elicit the answerer’s thinking; questions that encourage elaboration or conversation.

Open syllable

A syllable that ends in one vowel. The vowel has a long sound.

Oral language

Speaking and listening skills are the foundation of literacy development in children. Oral language serves as the basis for written language.



A speaker describes or replaces an unknown word using other words that are known.

Peer mediation

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.


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


The smallest part of a word that makes a single articulated sound (e.g., the phonemes in cat are /k/, /ă/, /t/; the phonemes in fish are /f/, /ĭ/, /sh/).

Phonemic awareness

The ability to isolate and manipulate individual sounds within a spoken word. Phonemic awareness is one of the earliest skills in literacy development, but it is the most difficult skill within the construct of phonological awareness.


Phonics is a teaching and learning process based on applying knowledge of letter-sound correspondences and spelling patterns to learn to read written text.

Phonological awareness

The knowledge of sounds within spoken language. It begins with the recognition of phrases within sentences and progresses to successively smaller units (e.g., words within phrases, syllables within words, onsets and rimes, individual phonemes).

Phonological loop

An essential part of working memory that allows one to temporarily store and manipulate verbal information.

Phonological working memory

Working memory that allows for processing sounds and then doing something with those sounds such as successfully blending them together to create a word.

Positive feedback

Instructional information that a teacher provides a student to indicate specifically what the student did correctly and should continue doing to support his/her 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

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/concepts of print

A child’s understanding that print has a function. When developing print awareness, children learn that print carries meaning, is organized in a specific way, and that there are rules for how one reads and writes.

Print conventions

Understanding the basics about written text and how it works. For example, knowing that you read from left to right and top to bottom, holding the book the correct way, turning the pages, distinguishing between the words and the pictures, distinguishing between letters and other symbols, etc.

Prior knowledge

See background knowledge.

Progress monitoring

The method by which an educator determines if students are benefiting from literacy instruction and research-based practices designed to meet a literacy-related SMART goal. Progress is measured using brief and easy-to-administer assessments.

Progress monitoring assessments

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.



R-controlled syllable

A syllable with a single vowel followed by the letter r. The r gives the vowel a different sound that is neither long or short.


Objects and materials from everyday life, especially when used as teaching aids. 

Regular word

A word that can be decoded because all of the letters represent their typical sounds.


The vowel and any final consonants in a syllable (e.g., /ĭ//p/ in sipship, and slip).

Root cause

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.



The temporary assistance/support by the teacher to help students know how to do something, so that the student can complete a similar task alone. 


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


To split 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.


The order in which the content should be taught for the best learning (building on past knowledge) within a grade level and across grade levels.

Shared reading

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 words

Words that can be recognized "on sight" without applying any decoding or analytic skills. There are two types. The first, includes high-frequency words that appear so often in a language that they can be recognized instantly (e.g., at, me, ate, ride). The second type includes the words that do not follow the usual phonics or letter-sound patterns, so the words must be memorized in order to be read correctly (e.g., have, where, two, their).


Silent-e syllable

A syllable with a single vowel followed by a consonant and then an e. The e is silent but allows the preceding vowel to have the long sound.


A figure of speech that uses the words “like” or “as” to describe a person or thing through a non-literal comparison to another noun. (e.g., “He is as free as a bird.” or “They fought like cats and dogs.”).

SMART goal

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

Speaker turn

Participating in a conversation by appropriately alternating speaking and listening. Skills associated with turn taking can include initiating a conversation, waiting for another speaker to finish, responding to a question or point, and maintaining a topic.


Applying knowledge of phonics and morphology to convert spoken units of a word into the correct letters or 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.

Structured literacy

The explicit, systematic teaching of literacy skills, with particular attention to phonological awareness, word recognition, phonics and decoding, spelling, and syntax at the sentence and paragraph levels.


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


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, silent-er-controlled, vowel team, and consonant-le. Some curricula also include diphthong.


The way words and phrases are arranged and punctuated in a sentence. Syntax can vary from language to language. For example, in English an adjective typically is placed before the noun it is describing (e.g., “the blue house”), but in Spanish the noun typically is placed before the adjective (e.g., “la casa [house] azul [blue]”).

Systematic instruction

A form of instruction that is thoroughly planned and progresses from easier ideas or skills to gradually more complex ideas or skills.


Text features

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

The organization of and relationship among the ideas in a text (e.g., sequence/chronology, compare and contrast, problem and solution, cause and effect).

Textual evidence

Literal information from the text that can be used to support a claim or inference.


A recurring idea or underlying message in a literary text.

Think aloud

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.


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


Universal screening assessments

A brief assessment that is done with all students in a grade-level or school to determine which students are on track for proficiency and which need additional, perhaps more intensive, instruction.



Oral vocabulary includes words and concepts understood through listening and speaking. Reading and writing vocabulary includes understanding and using words and concepts when reading and writing text.

Voiced consonants

Consonant sounds that are made by vibrating the vocal cords, such as /b/ as in bed, /d/ as in dip, and /g/ as in good.

Voiceless consonants

Consonant sounds that do not cause vibrations to the vocal cords, such as /p/ as in pet, /k/ as in coat, and /t/ as in ten.

Vowel team syllable

When two vowels appear next to each other in a syllable and form one phoneme, or sound (e.g., the ai representing the /ā/ sound in rain, the ea representing the /ē/ or /ĕ/ sound in read).



Writing development includes a variety of skills from forming letters to words and sentences as well as more sophisticated forms of communicating ideas and conveying information.

Writing mechanics

Basic components involved in the act of writing, including handwriting, typing, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure.

Writing prompt

A writing prompt is 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 the length of the response.

Written expression

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

Applying decoding skills (e.g., phonics, morphology) to read words accurately.

Word recognition

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.

Working memory

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. The part of one’s memory that temporarily stores small amounts of information needed to perform tasks.