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Glossary of Reading Terms

Affix: A word element that is placed at the beginning (prefix), in the middle (infix), or at the end (suffix) of the root or word stem.


Alliteration: The repetition of the same or similar sounds (usually consonants) that are close to one another (e.g. the timid, tiny tadpole).


Alphabetic principle: The idea that letters represent sound and that printed letters can be turned into speech (and vice versa).


Anecdotal records: An informal, written record (usually positive in tone), based on the observations of the teacher, of a student's progress and/or activities which occur throughout the day.


Antonym: A word which is the opposite of another word. Large is the antonym of small.


Balanced literacy: Generally, an approach to reading that incorporates both whole language and phonics instruction.


Blending: Combining parts of words to form a word. For example, combining pl and ate to form plate.


Book talk: When a teacher (or media specialist) gives a brief talk about a particular book to generate interest in the book.


Choral reading: Sometimes referred to as unison reading. The whole class reads the same text aloud. Usually the teacher sets the pace. Choral reading helps with the ability to read sight words and builds fluency.


Chunking: Reading by grouping portions of text into short, meaningful phrases.


Cloze: A procedure whereby a word or words has/have been removed from a sentence and the student must fill in the blank using context clues (clues in the sentence).


Consonant: a letter and a sound. Consonants are the letters of the alphabet except for the vowels a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y and w.


Consonant blend: two or three consonants grouped together; each sound is retained (heard). For example: st and scr.


Consonant digraph: two or more consonants grouped together in which the consonants produce one sound. For example: sh and ch.


Consonant cluster: A group of consonants that appear together in a syllable without a vowel between them.


Context clues: Bits of information from the text that, when combined with the reader's own knowledge, allow the reader to "read between the lines," figure out the meaning of the text, or determine the meaning of unknown words in the text.


D.E.A.R: Drop Everything and Read. A time set aside during the school day in which everyone (teachers and students) drop everything and read.


Decode: to analyze graphic symbols to determine their intended meaning.

duet reading: When a skilled reader and a weaker, less-skilled reader reads the same text aloud. The skilled reader may be a peer, older sibling, parent, or teacher. Duet reading builds confidence and fluency.


Easy reader: A short book with appropriately short text. The illustrations amplify the text.


Echo reading: When a skilled reader reads a portion of text (sometimes just a sentence) while the less-skilled reader "tracks." The less-skilled reader then imitates or "echoes" the skilled reader.


Emergent reader: An emergent reader: has print awareness, reads in a left-to-right and top-to-bottom progression, uses some beginning and ending letter sounds, may tell the story from memory, may invent text, interprets/uses picture clues to help tell the story, is beginning to use high-frequency words.


Environmental print: Print that is all around us: street signs, labels on cans or jars, handwritten notes, etc.


Expository writing: Text that explains an event, concept, or idea using facts and examples.


Fluency: The ability to read at an appropriate rate smoothly. (Also the ability to read expressively if reading aloud.)


Fluent reader: A fluent reader: reads quickly, smoothly, and with expression; has a large store of sight words; automatically decodes unknown words, self-corrects.


Genre: A type or category of literature marked by conventions of style, format, and/or content. Genres include: mystery, fantasy, epic poetry, etc.


Grapheme: The smallest unit of a writing system. A grapheme may be one letter such as t or combination of letters such as sh. A grapheme represents one phoneme.


Guided reading: A context wherein the teacher interacts with small groups of students as they read books that present a challenge. The teacher introduces reading strategies, tailoring the instruction to the needs of the students. When the students read, the teacher provides praise and encouragement as well as support when needed. Proponents of guided reading, Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinell, have stated, "The ultimate goal of guided reading is to help children learn how to use independent reading strategies successfully."


Homograph: Two words that have the same spelling but different meanings and/or origins and may differ in pronunciation. Example: "the bow of a ship" and "a hair bow"


Homonym: A word that has the same spelling or pronunciation as another but different meanings and/or origins. See homograph and homophone.


Homophone: Two words that have the same pronunciation but differ in meaning or spelling or both. Example: pause and paws


Idiom: a phrase or expression that is (usually) not taken literally. For example, "Don't let the cat out of the bag" means to not tell something one knows, to keep silent.


Independent reading: Students self select books to read. A student's "independent reading level" is the level at which the student can read with 96-100% accuracy.


language experience approach: Also referred to as LEA. An approach to literacy instruction in which students orally dictate texts to a teacher (or scribe). The text is then read aloud by the teacher as the students read along silently. Students are then encouraged to read and re-read the text, thus building fluency. The experiences that serve as stimuli/sources for the dictated text can vary from literature discussions to field trips. Generally, the approach involves: a shared experience, discussion, oral dictation, reading, and re-reading. After the shared experience, the scribe helps the student write about the experience. The approach works not only with beginning readers, but non-native speakers of English, and adult learners as well. LEA is not a new approach; It has been studied and used for decades.


Learning log: A document wherein students write entries (usually short and ungraded) which reflect upon a lesson, activity, event, discussion, presentation, or experiment.


Leveled text: Books are "leveled" (i.e. placed in a certain category) based on the criteria of the person or entity leveling the books. Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, the developers of Guided Reading, advocate these stages: Emergent Readers (Levels A-E); Early Readers (Levels F-J); Early Fluent Readers (Levels K-P); and Fluent Readers (Levels Q-W). Individual titles of books are then given a "level" based upon certain criteria. The Lexile Framework is another such tool. Lexile measures reader ability and text difficulty by the same standard. The leveling of texts allows teachers to match books with an individual student's reading ability.


Literacy: The ability to read, write, communicate, and comprehend.


literacy centers: Stations or areas where literacy activities are set up for use. Centers may also be portable wherein the student takes the "center" to his or her desk. Examples of literacy centers: Reading the Room (a small area where students may obtain a flyswatter, pointer, large glasses, etc. that they can use to "read" the room as them walk around). Writing Centers which have available various types of paper, writing utensils, stamps, etc. For younger children the Writing Center may contain materials which they can use to form letters or words such play dough, fingerpaint, a flat piece of velvet, etc.


Literature circles: Student-led book discussion groups. Students choose their own reading material and meet in small, temporary groups with other students who are reading the same book. The teacher acts a facilitator. Literature Circles by Harvey Daniels (Stenhouse Publishers) is considered by many to be the definitive guide on the subject.


Main idea: The point the author is making about a topic. Topic and main idea are not the same.


Metaphor: A figure of speech in which two things are compared by saying one thing is another.


Modeled reading: Wherein the teacher reads aloud a book which is above the students' reading level. Students may or may not have a copy of the text with which to follow along. The purpose of modeled reading is to demonstrate a skill or ability such as: fluency, fix-up strategy, think aloud.

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