English Language Arts Glossary


Academic vocabulary: refers to words associated with content knowledge. Within every discipline there is a specific set of words to represent its concepts and processes.
Abbreviation: a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase, used to represent the whole, as Dr. for Doctor, U.S. for United States, and lb. for pound.
Active Listening: the active pursuit of what another person is saying and feeling, as a way to improve mutual understanding. Active listening involves hearing content, listening for tone, observing body language, paraphrasing, summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and reflecting.
Affix: a morpheme or meaningful part of a word attached before or after a root to modify its meaning. Principal kinds of affixes are prefixes and suffixes. The prefix un- is an affix, which added to balanced, makes unbalanced. The suffix -ed is an affix which, added to wish, makes wished.
Alliteration: the repetition of the same initial consonant sound of each word in the connected text (e.g., Harry the happy hippo hula-hoops with Henrietta).
Allusion: a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing, or idea of historical, cultural, literary, or political significance.
Analogy: a comparison of the similar aspects of two different things.
Annotation: a critical or explanatory note or body of notes added to a text.
Antagonist: the adversary of the hero or protagonist of a drama or other literary work.
Antonyms: words which have opposite meanings (e.g., hot and cold).
Appropriate Technology: technology that students can use independently or with minimal scaffolding.
Archetype: a symbol, plot pattern, character type, or theme that recurs in many different cultures.
Argument Essay: a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish and defend a position on the topic in a concise manner.
Argumentation: writing that seeks to influence through appeals that direct readers to specific goals or try to win them to specific beliefs.
Audience: writer’s targeted reader or readers.
Author’s Craft: specific techniques that an author chooses to relay an intended message.
Automaticity: reading without conscious effort or attention to decoding.


Base: a free morpheme to which affixes can be added, usually of Anglo-Saxon origin.
Blending: the task of combining sounds rapidly to accurately represent the word.


Cause & Effect: text structure that notes a relationship in which an event or events (the cause) make(s) another event or action happen (effect).
Citing Sources: a quotation of or explicit reference to a source indicating where the paraphrased or quoted materials came. Examples of citation style include MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association).
Claim: an assertion of the truth of something.
Close Reading: a strategy that requires a student to focus on and arrive at a deep understanding of individual texts by reading and re-reading. Fisher, Frey, and Lapp (2012) describe four reader roles that help the reader uncover meaning in a text:
  1. Code Breaker: understanding the text at the surface level (i.e., alphabetic, structural) 
  2. Meaning Maker: comprehending the text at the level intended by the author 
  3. Text User: analyzing the factors that influenced the author and the text, including a historical grounding of the context within which it was written 
  4. Text Critic: understanding that the text is not neutral and that existing biases inform calls to action.
Closed Syllable: a written syllable containing a single vowel and ending in one or more consonants; the vowel sound is short.
Coherence: continuity of meaning that enables others to make sense of a text.
Collaborative Discussions: discussions that provide opportunities for speakers and listeners to use dialogue and interaction to raise issues, explore ideas, make claims, discover differences, and find ways to explore all aspects of ELA. These take many forms like a Socratic seminar, debate, or blog and combine students in small or large discourse communities.
Compare: find similarities between two or more texts or text elements.
Comparison: text structure in which ideas are related to one another on the basis of similarities and differences. The text presents ideas organized to compare, to contrast, or to provide an alternative perspective.
Compound Word: a word made by putting two or more words together (e.g., cowboy).
Comprehension: understanding what one is reading, the ultimate goal of all reading activity.
Conflict: struggle or clash between opposing characters, forces, or emotions.
Connotation: a meaning that is implied by a word apart from the thing it describes explicitly. Words carry cultural and emotional associations or meanings in addition to their literal meanings or denotations.
Consonant Blend: two or more consecutive consonants that 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/).
Consonant Trigraph: a combination of three letters used to represent a single speech sound or phoneme. (e.g./tch/) 
Content-Specific: vocabulary that includes technical words related to specific academic disciplines. (See also academic and domain-specific vocabulary)
Context: the parts of a written or spoken statement/text that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect.
Context Clue: the information from the textual setting that helps identify a word or word group.
Contraction: a short way to write two words as one by writing the two words together, leaving out one or more letters and replacing the missing letters with an apostrophe (e.g., cannot = can’t).
Conventional Writing: expressing thoughts and ideas with agreed upon symbols, like the alphabet.
Counterclaim: a claim made to rebut a previous claim.


Declarative Sentence: the kind of sentence that makes a statement or “declares” something.
Decode: translate a word from print to speech, usually by employing knowledge of sound symbol correspondences; also the act of deciphering a new word by sounding it out.
Denotation: the literal or dictionary meaning of a word.
Description: text structure that presents a topic, along with the attributes, specifics, or setting information that describe that topic.
Detail: piece of information revealed by the author or speaker that supports the attitude or tone in a piece of poetry or prose. In informational text, details provide information to support the author’s main point.
Diction: the choice and use of words by a speaker or a writer.
Digital Media: media created, viewed, distributed, modified, and preserved on digital devices (e.g. computers, tablets, phones). Digital media include computer programs, digital videos, video games, web pages and websites, social media, databases, audio, and e-books. Digital media are contrasted with print media such as books, newspapers, magazines, pictures, film, and audiotape.
Domain-Specific Vocabulary: “relatively low-frequency, content-specific words that appear in textbooks and other instructional materials; for example, apex in math, escarpment in geography, and isobar in science” (Blachowicz, C. & Fisher, P., p.1). (See also academic and content-specific vocabulary)


Edit: to review writing to make sure that it is free of any grammatical errors or strange phrases that make it difficult for readers to understand the meaning.
Emergent Writing: “means that children begin to understand that writing is a form of communication and their marks on paper convey a message” (Mayer, 2007, p. 35). Emergent writing progresses along a developmental continuum.
Ethical & Legal Guidelines for Research: guidelines for correctly citing print and digital text when using primary and secondary sources for research. In addition, copying and pasting texts, purchasing essays online, using another author’s work, or violating copyright laws are unethical and could result in legal action.
Exclamatory Sentence: a type of sentence that expresses strong feelings by making an exclamation.


Fiction: imaginative literary works representing invented rather than actual persons, places, or events.
Figurative Language: writing or speech not meant to be taken literally but used to express ideas in vivid or imaginative ways. Figurative language includes simile, metaphor, personification, analogy, hyperbole, and idiom.
Flashback: scene that interrupts the action of a work to show a previous event.
Fluency: ability to read grade-level text accurately, with expression, and with automaticity. The combination of accuracy, automaticity, and prosody allow the reader to build comprehension.
Foreshadowing: use of hints or clues in a narrative to suggest future action.


Generalize: to make general or broad statements by inferring from text details.
Genre: a category used to classify literary and other works, usually by form, technique, or content. The novel, the short story, and the lyric poems are all examples of literary genres.
Grammar: rules of language.
Grapheme: a letter or letter combination that spells a phoneme; can be one, two, three, or four letters in English (e.g., e, ei, igh, eigh).
Graphic Features: pictorial representation of data or ideas using columns, matrices, or other formats. Graphics can be simple or complex, present information in a straightforward way as in a list or pie graph, or embed or nest information within the document’s structure. Graphics may be included in texts or be stand-alone documents.


High Frequency Irregular Words: words in print containing letters that stray from the most common sound pronunciation because they do not follow common phonic patterns (e.g., were, was, laugh, been).
High Frequency Words: a small group of words (300-500) that account for a large percentage of the words in print and can be regular or irregular words. Often, they are referred to as “sight words” since automatic recognition of these words is required for fluent reading.
Homographs: words that are spelled alike but have different sounds and meanings (e.g., bow used with an arrow vs. bow of a ship).
Homonyms: words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings (e.g., bear- an animal; bear- the right to bear arms).
Homophones: words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings (e.g., new and knew)
Hyperbole: obvious and deliberate exaggeration; an extravagant statement.


Idiom: an expression that does not mean what it literally says (e.g., to have the upper hand has nothing to do with the hands).
Imagery: multiple words or a continuous phrase that a writer uses to represent persons, objects, actions, feelings, or ideas descriptively by appealing to the senses.
Imperative Sentence: a sentence that gives a command, makes a request, or expresses a wish.
Indent: to set in or back from the margin, as the first line of a paragraph.
Inference: act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true; the conclusions drawn from this process.
Inferring: making a reasonable assumption about meaning that is not explicitly stated in the text.
Inflectional Endings: 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; Added to verbs, nouns, or adjectives do not change the grammatical role or part of speech of the base words (-s, -es,-ing, ¬ed).
Informational: non-fiction books; also referred to as expository text, that contain facts and information.
Interactive Texts: multimodal texts in which readers may determine the order and duration of reading. For example, interactive texts, may include hyperlinks to other pages containing embedded images, videos and audio.
Interrogative Sentence: the kind of sentence that asks a question and uses a question mark.
Irony: the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning.






Legend: inscription or title on an object (e.g., a key to symbols used on a map).
Letter-Sound Correspondences: the matching of an oral sound to its corresponding letter or group of letters.
Lexile: a quantitative measure of text complexity and individual reading level that can be used to predict how well a reader will likely comprehend a text.
Literal: information directly from the text (e.g., on the line).
Literary Nonfiction: text that conveys factual information. The text may or may not employ a narrative structure and characteristics such as dialogue.


Main Idea: the central thought or premise of a reading passage.
Meaning Vocabulary: application of one’s understanding of word meanings to passage comprehension.
Memoir: type of autobiography that usually focuses on a single time period or historical event.
Metaphor: a direct comparison of two unlike things.
Modified Citation Style: using author, title, and publication date of sources to document research. This special style is used only at the fifth grade level to ease students into more stringent citation styles which are used in later grades.
Mood: atmosphere or predominant emotion in a literary work.
Morpheme: the smallest meaningful unit of the language.
Morphology: the study and description of how words are formed from prefixes, roots, and suffixes (e.g., mis-spell-ing), and how words are related to each other.
Multimodal: multiple + mode. A mode refers to a way of meaning-making or communicating. The New London Group (1996) outlines five modes through which meaning is made: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Gestural, and Spatial. Any combination of modes makes a multimodal text, and all texts—every piece of communication that a human composes—use more than one mode. Thus, all writing is multimodal.“All Writing is Multimodal,” Cheryl Ball and Colin Charlton, in Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Linda Adler- Kassner & Elizabeth Wardle (Eds.), forthcoming from Utah State University Press.
Multimodal Content: content utilizing more than one mode (e.g. still images + words, words + video) to convey a meaning.
Multimodal Literacy: “the interplay of meaning-making systems (alphabetic, oral, visual, etc.) that teachers and students should strive to study and produce.” NCTE Position Statement on Multimodal Literacies.
Multisyllabic: 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.


Narrative Writing: writing that tells a story. This writing is often anecdotal, experiential, and personal—allowing students to express themselves in creative and, quite often, moving ways.
Nonfiction: text that is factual and may be presented by detailed descriptions or examples; organization follows a logical pattern and may include textual aids.
Nonverbal Cues: nonverbal messages that are a key aspect of speaking, for example, intonation, pauses, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and body language. Listeners should study these cues to determine a speaker’s message, argument, and credibility.
Nonverbal Texts: In place of words, nonverbal texts may include images, gestures, and movement.


Onomatopoeia: use of words that mimic the sounds they describe; imitative harmony.
Onset: all of the sounds in a syllable that come before the first vowel.
Opinion Writing: writing that clearly states a view or judgment about a topic, supported by examples, and offering reasons for assertions and/or explaining cause and effect.


Parallel Structure: repetition of words, phrases, or sentences that have the same grammatical structure or that restate a similar idea.
Paraphrase: to sum something up or clarify a statement by rephrasing it; to say something in other simpler words.
Personification: the bestowing of human qualities on animals, ideas, or things.
Persuasion: form of discourse whose function is to convince an audience or to prove or refute a point of view or an issue.
Phoneme: a speech sound that combines with others in a language system to make words.
Phonemic Awareness: the ability to notice, think about, or manipulate the individual phonemes (sounds) in words. It is the ability to understand that sounds in spoken language work together to make words. This term is used to refer to the highest level of phonological awareness: awareness of individual phonemes in words.
Phonics: the study of the relationships between letters and the sounds they represent; also used to describe reading instruction that teaches sound-symbol correspondences. Sound-symbol correspondence are the rules and patterns by which letters and letter combinations represent speech sounds.
Phonological Awareness: one’s sensitivity to, or explicit awareness of, the phonological structure of words in one’s language. This is an “umbrella” term that is used to refer to a student’s sensitivity to any aspect of phonological structure in language. It encompasses awareness of individual words in sentences, syllables, and onset-rime segments, as well as awareness of individual phonemes.
Picture Walk: a strategy for previewing a book prior to reading by looking at the cover and illustrations and asking questions that require students to make predictions about the text.
Plagiarism: using another person or source’s words or ideas without giving credit or obtaining permission.
Plot: sequence of events or actions in a short story, novel, drama, or narrative poem.
Point of View: the way in which an author reveals a viewpoint or perspective. This can be done through characters, ideas, events, and narration.
Prefix: a morpheme that precedes a root and that contributes to or modifies the meaning of a word, as “re” in reprint.
Pre-Reading Strategies: strategies for preparing students to read a text prior to reading. Examples include: picture walk, brainstorming about the topic/text, advance organizers, activating prior knowledge, vocabulary previews, structural organizers, establishing a purpose for reading, etc.
Primary Source: firsthand account of an event or a time period written or created during that time period (examples: Diary of Anne Frank, Dorothea Lange’s photographs, newspaper article about Hurricane Katrina).
Print Concepts: the ability of a child to know and recognize the ways in which print “works” for the purposes of reading, particularly with regard to books.
Prior Knowledge: refers to schema, the knowledge and experience that readers bring to the text.
Problem/Solution: text structure in which the main ideas are organized into two parts: a problem and a subsequent solution that responds to the problem, or a question and an answer that responds to the question.
Protagonist: central character of a short story, novel, or narrative poem. The antagonist is the character who stands directly opposed to the protagonist.
Purpose: specific reason or reasons for the writing. It conveys what the readers have to gain by reading the selection. Purpose is the objective or the goal that the writer wishes to establish.


Quote: in research, to directly copy down the words from a source, set off in quotation marks


R-Controlled Vowels: the modified sound of a vowel immediately preceding /r/ in the same syllable (e.g., care, never, sir, or).
Rate: the speed at which a person reads.
Recursive: moving back and forth through a text in either reading or writing, as new ideas are developed or problems encountered. In reading a text, recursive processes might include rereading earlier portions in light of later ones, looking ahead to see what topics are addressed or how a narrative ends, and skimming through text to search for particular ideas or events before continuing a linear reading. In creating a written composition, recursive processes include moving back and forth among the planning, drafting, and revising phases of writing.
Reenact: to act out the events of a text.
Retell: recall the content of what was read or heard.
Revise: the process of rereading a text and making changes (in content, organization, sentence structures, and word choice) to improve it; not to be confused with edit.
Rhetorical Device: technique used by writers to persuade an audience. (e.g. alliteration, hyperbole, metaphor, etc.)
Rhyme: words that have the same ending sound.
Rime: a vowel plus the consonants that follow in a syllable; (e.g., -ame, -ick, -out).
Root: a bound morpheme, usually of Latin origin, that cannot stand alone but is used to form a family of words with related meanings.


Schema: refers to prior knowledge, the knowledge and experience that readers bring to the text.
Secondary Source: an interpretation or analysis of a primary source (examples: book about diaries kept during the Holocaust, book about Great Depression photography, an op-ed about how New Orleans handled the Hurricane Katrina aftermath from a later date).
Segmenting: separating the individual phonemes, or sounds, of a word into discrete units.
Semantics: the study of meaning in language.
Semantic Relationships: associations that exist between the meanings of words.
Sequential Structure: text structure in which ideas are grouped on the basis of order or time.
Setting: time and place in which events in a short story, novel, drama, or narrative poem take place.
Shared Reading: an interactive reading experience that occurs when students join in or share the reading of a big book or other enlarged text while guided and supported by a teacher or other experienced reader.
Simile: a combination of two things that are unlike, usually using the words like or as.
Stem: the base form of a word; also called the root word.
Structural Analysis: a procedure for teaching students to read words formed with prefixes, suffixes, or other meaningful word parts.
Style: writer’s characteristic manner of employing language.
Suffix: a derivational morpheme added to the end of root or base that often changes the word’s part of speech and that modifies its meaning.
Summarize: reducing large selections of text to their base essentials: the gist, the key ideas, the main points that are worth noting and remembering.
Supporting Details: reasons, examples, facts, steps, or other kinds of evidence that back up and explain a main idea. Details make up most of the information in what a person reads, but some details are more important than others.
Syllable: a unit of pronunciation that is organized around a vowel sound; it may or may not have consonants before or after the vowel.
Symbol: object, person, place, or action that has both a meaning in itself and that stands for something larger than itself, such as a quality, attitude, belief, or value.
Synonyms: words which have the same meaning. (e.g. example, instance, occurrence)
Syntax: arrangement of words and order of grammatical elements in a sentence.
Synthesize: creating original insights, perspectives, and understanding by reflecting on text(s) and merging elements from text and existing schema.


Text Complexity: based on Fisher and Frey (2013), three inter-related aspects determine text complexity: quantitative evaluation, qualitative evaluation, and matching readers with texts and tasks.
  1. Quantitative evaluation: readability measures and other scores of text complexity
  2. Qualitative evaluation: levels of meaning, structure, language features, and knowledge demands
  3. Matching readers with texts and tasks: reader variables (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and task variables (such as purpose and the complexity generated by the task assigned and the questions posed) (p.7)
Theme: central meaning of a literary work. A literary work can have more than one theme. Most themes are not directly stated but rather are implied. A literary theme is not the same as a topic or main idea.
Thesis Statement: the guiding, arguable statement or claim an essay attempts to prove through evidence and reasoning.
Tone: writer or speaker’s attitude toward a subject, character, or audience conveyed through the author’s choice of words and detail. Tone can be serious, humorous, sarcastic, objective, etc.
Topic: the subject of the entire paragraph/text selection; tells what the passage is mainly about.
Track Print: look and process all the letters in order from left-to-right.
Trait: distinguishing feature, as of a person’s character.




Verbal cues: words and phrases that speakers use to add emphasis, clarify organization, make connections, and create ethos. Listeners should be focusing on these cues as it helps listeners determine a speaker’s message, argument, and credibility.
Vocabulary Notebook: a teaching strategy used to help students learn new vocabulary.
Voice: distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or of a character.
Vowel Digraph: two vowels together that represent one phoneme, or sound (e.g., ea, ai, oa).
Vowel Diphthong: a sound made by combining two vowels, specifically when it starts as one vowel sound and proceeds to another, like the oy sound in oil.


Word Study: the integration of phonics, spelling, and vocabulary instruction. This approach teaches students how to look closely at words to discover the regularities and conventions of English orthography, or spelling. The purpose is twofold: (1) develop a general knowledge of English spelling and discover generalizations about spelling, and (2) increase students’ specific knowledge of words and their meanings.
Word Family: group of words that share a rime (a vowel plus the consonants that follow; e.g., -ame, -ick, -out).
Word Wall: a literacy tool used for displaying commonly used vocabulary and/or sight words in large print so that all students can read the words from their desks. The purpose of a word wall is to help students naturally gain familiarity with high frequency words, as well as to gain reinforcement of vocabulary.
Writing Modes: major types of writing. (Narrative, Opinion, Informational, Argumentation).
Writing Process: steps contained in the writing process include prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. This process is often recursive.








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Last updated on March 1, 2019