English Language Arts Glossary


Jason Stephenson
Director of Secondary ELA

(405) 522-3628

Deb Wade
Director, Elementary ELA

(405) 521-3034


Academic Vocabulary: the set of words commonly used across all disciplines to engage in critical thinking (e.g., analyze, examine, infer).


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. See also Prefix and Suffix


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 (e.g., In Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” the line “So Eden sank to grief” contains an allusion to the Garden of Eden from the book of Genesis in the Bible.).


Analogy: a comparison of the similar aspects of two different things (e.g., kitten is to cat as puppy is to dog). Similes, metaphors, and some idioms make use of analogy (e.g., Forrest Gump’s famous line, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” contains a simile that makes use of analogy.).


Antagonist: the character who opposes the protagonist or main character of a literary work; not necessarily a villain.


Antonyms: words which have opposite meanings.


Archetype: a symbol, plot pattern, character type, or theme that recurs in many different cultures throughout history (e.g, light symbolizing hope, rags to riches plots, star-crossed lovers as character types).


Argumentative Writing: writing that requires a student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish and defend a position on the topic in a clear manner.


Assonance: the repetition of middle vowel sounds in nearby words (e.g., “between all the bleedin’ ‘n’ fightin’ / I’ve been readin’ and writin’” in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton).


Audience: a writer’s targeted reader(s).


Author’s Purpose: the objective, goal, or intended effect a writer wishes to achieve.


Automaticity: reading without conscious effort or attention to decoding.



Base: a free morpheme to which affixes can be added, usually of Anglo-Saxon origin (e.g., happy).


Blending: the process of combining sounds to make a word.



Cause and Effect: a text structure that explains a relationship in which an event or action (cause) makes another event or action happen (effect).


Characterization: the process by which a writer reveals the personality of a character.

  • Direct: the author shares the character’s personality trait(s)
  • Indirect: the character’s thoughts, actions, speech, etc. reveal personality

Citation: in research, an indication of the origin of paraphrased or quoted text. Examples of citation style include MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association).


Claim: the central arguable proposal in opinion or argumentative writing. See also Thesis.


Closed Syllable: a syllable containing a single vowel followed by one or more consonants; the vowel sound is short (e.g., -nut in donut).


Coherence: continuity of meaning that enables readers 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, and discover differences. 


Compare/Contrast: a text structure in which ideas are related to one another on the basis of similarities and differences.


Compound Word: a word made by putting two or more words together (e.g., cow + boy = cowboy).


Comprehension: the goal of reading, understanding both the literal and implied messages of what one is reading.


Conflict: a struggle or clash between opposing characters, forces, or emotions.

  • External: a character’s struggle with an outside force such as another person, nature, disease, etc.
  • Internal: a character’s opposing or incompatible emotions, choices, etc.

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. See also Denotation.


Consonant Blend: two or three consonant phonemes before or after a vowel in a syllable 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/ in chip, /sh/ in ship).


Consonant Trigraph: three consecutive consonants that represent one phoneme or sound (e.g., /tch/ in match).


Context: the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect.


Context Clue: the information from a text that helps identify the meaning of a word or phrase.


Contraction: a shorter 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., you + all = y’all).


Conventional Writing: expressing thoughts and ideas with agreed-upon symbols like the alphabet.


Counterclaim: a claim made to rebut a previous claim.



Declarative Sentence: a sentence that makes a statement or declares something and ends with a period.


Decode: to 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. See also Connotation.


Description: a text structure that presents a topic, along with the attributes, specifics, or setting information that describe that topic.


Detail: a piece of information revealed by the author or speaker that supports the attitude or tone in a piece of prose or poetry. In informational text, details provide information to support the author’s main point.


Diction: the choice and use of words by a speaker or writer.


Drama: a story told through dialogue and actions in script form for theater, film, television, and radio/podcasts.



Emergent Writing: a young child’s first attempts at the writing process by creating drawings and symbolic markings that represent their thoughts and ideas.


Encode: to use letter-sound knowledge to write by applying phonics, spelling patterns, and structural analysis skills.


Ethical and Legal Guidelines: guidelines for correctly citing print and digital text when using primary and secondary sources for research. Copying and pasting texts, purchasing essays online, using another author’s work, or violating copyright laws are unethical and could result in legal action.


Ethos: in rhetoric, the credibility a speaker or writer establishes in an argument based on their knowledge, experience, expertise, etc.


Evidence: the reasons or support for an argument

  • Anecdotal: stories told by other people
  • Empirical: discovered through experiments, observations, or personal experiences
  • Logical: data, statistics, definitions, academic studies, hard facts

Exclamatory Sentence: a sentence that expresses strong feelings and ends with an exclamation point.



Fiction: imaginative literary works about invented 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 (e.g., simile, metaphor, personification, imagery, hyperbole, idiom).


Flashback: a scene that interrupts the action of a narrative to show a previous event.


Fluency: the ability to read grade-level text accurately with prosody (expression) and automaticity.


Foreshadowing: hints or clues in a narrative that suggest future events.



Genre: a category used to classify fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction, usually by form, technique, or content. Fantasy, ode, one-act play, and memoir are all examples of genres.


Grammar: rules of language that govern sentence construction.


Grapheme: a letter or letter combination that spells a phoneme; can be one, two, three, or four letters in English (e.g., The phoneme /d/ has three graphemes: /d/ as in dog, /dd/ as in add, and /ed/ as in filled.). See also The 44 Phonemes of the English Language in the Appendix on pages 2-3.



High-Frequency Words: words that occur most often in written English. The majority of these words are regular, or pattern-based. A minority have an irregular or unusual spelling.


Homographs: words that are spelled alike but have different sounds and meanings (e.g., bow used with an arrow and bow of a ship).


Homonyms: words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings (e.g., the animal bear and the right to bear arms).


Homophones: words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings (e.g., new and knew).


Hyperbole: an obvious and deliberate exaggeration; an extravagant statement (e.g., We ate our body weight in queso.).



Idiom: an expression with a unique meaning that cannot be derived from its literal words (e.g., It’s raining cats and dogs.).


Imagery: descriptive words or phrases that appeal to the senses.


Imperative Sentence: a sentence that gives a command, makes a request, or expresses a wish and ends with a period.


Infer: to make a reasonable assumption about meaning that is not explicitly stated in a text.


Inflectional Endings: a suffix that does not change the part of speech of the base word and expresses plurality when added to a noun (-s, -es), tense when added to a verb (-ing, -ed), and comparison when added to an adjective and some adverbs (-er, -est).


Informational: nonfiction text that contains facts and information.


Informative Writing: writing that shares facts and details in order to explain.


In Media Res: a story that bypasses exposition and begins with plot already unfolding. This Latin phrase can translate to “in the midst of things.”


Interrogative Sentence: a sentence that asks a question and ends with a question mark.


Irony: a contrast between expectation and reality

  • Verbal Irony: the use of words to express something other than, and especially the opposite of, the literal meaning.
  • Situational Irony: an event that occurs in stark contrast to the expectation.
  • Dramatic Irony: the audience knowing something that a character does not.






Letter-Sound Correspondence: the matching of an oral sound to its corresponding letter or group of letters.


Logical Fallacy: an error or flaw in reasoning whether intentional or unintentional (e.g., slippery slope, loaded question, ad hominem).


Logos: in rhetoric, the facts and reasoning (inductive and deductive) used by the speaker to strengthen an argument.

  • Inductive Reasoning: developing a theory by using specific observations, resulting in a likely conclusion.
  • Deductive Reasoning: testing an existing theory against various scenarios and hypotheses, resulting in a guaranteed conclusion.


Main Idea: the central thought or premise of a passage.


Mechanics: the rules of written language, such as capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.


Metaphor: a symbolic comparison of two unlike objects or ideas.


Mood: the atmosphere or predominant emotion in a literary work.


Morpheme: the smallest meaningful unit of language (e.g., fast has one morpheme; fastest has two morphemes).


Morphology: the study and description of how words are formed from prefixes, roots, and suffixes (e.g., misspelling = mis + spell + ing), and how words are related to each other.


Multimodal Content: content using more than one mode (i.e., alphabetic, aural, visual, spatial and/or gestural) to convey meaning. See also Multimodal Literacies Overview and Multimodal Literacies Examples on pages 14-15 of the Appendix



Narrative Writing: writing that tells a story and is often anecdotal, experiential, and personal.


Nonfiction: factual text that may be presented with detailed descriptions or examples; organization follows a logical pattern and may include graphics, charts, captions, etc.


Nonverbal Cues: a speaker’s intonation, pauses, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and/or body language that listeners can use to determine a speaker’s message, argument, and credibility.



Onomatopoeia: words that mimic the sounds they describe.


Onset: all of the sounds in a syllable that come before the first vowel (e.g., sh- in shout). See also Rime.


Op-ed: short for “opposite the editorial page,” this form of commentary is focused on a specific topic or moment in time with the author’s unique take and style.


Open Syllable: a syllable containing a single vowel not followed by a consonant; the vowel sound is long (e.g., do- in donut).


Opinion Writing: writing that clearly states a view or judgment about a topic, supported by reasoning and examples.



Parallel Structure: use of the same pattern of words, phrases, or clauses to show equal importance (e.g., “Wesley likes fishing, hiking, and dancing” is parallel, but “Wesley likes fishing, hiking, and to dance” is not parallel.).


Paraphrase: to rephrase a passage of text in one’s own words while maintaining the original meaning.


Pathos: in rhetoric, the aspects of a speaker’s argument that rely on anecdotes, stories, and examples to tug at the reader’s or listener’s emotions.


Personification: the bestowing of human qualities on animals, ideas, or things (e.g., In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza describes her house as having “windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath.”).


Phoneme: a speech sound that combines with others in a language system to make words (e.g., The three phonemes /d/, /ŏ/, and /g/ form the word dog.) See also The 44 Phonemes of the English Language in the Appendix on pages 2-3.


Phonemic Awareness: the ability to notice or manipulate the individual phonemes (sounds) in words and understand that sounds in spoken language work together to make words.


Phonics: the study of the relationships between letters and the sounds they represent.


Phonological Awareness: the conscious awareness of all levels of the speech-sound system, including syllables, onset-rime units, and phonemes.


Plagiarism: to use a person or source’s words or ideas without giving credit or obtaining permission.


Plot: the sequence of events or actions in a literary text.


Poetry: lines of verse featuring aspects of literary elements and devices such as rhythm, rhyme, and figurative language; U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins claims, “A good poem begins in Kansas and ends in Oz.”


Point of View: the way in which an author reveals a viewpoint or perspective through characters, ideas, events, and/or narration.

  • First person: the narrator uses first-person pronouns such as I, me, and my to tell the story.
  • Second person: the narrator uses second-person pronouns such as you, your, and yours to tell the story.
  • Third person limited: the narrator uses third-person pronouns such as they, she, and he to tell the story from one character’s perspective.
  • Third person omniscient: the narrator uses third-person pronouns such as they, she, and he to tell the story from two or more characters’ perspectives.

Prefix: a morpheme that precedes a root and that contributes to or modifies the meaning of a word.


Primary Source: a firsthand account of an event or a time period written or created during that time period (e.g., 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.


Prior Knowledge: refers to schema, the knowledge and experience that readers bring to a text.


Problem/Solution: a text structure in which the main ideas are organized into two parts: a problem and then a solution that responds to the problem.


Protagonist: the central character of a literary work.



Quote: to copy the exact words from a source, set off in quotation marks.


R-Controlled Vowels: the modified vowel sound immediately preceding /r/ in the same syllable (e.g., car, bear, cheer, for, heard). 


Rate: the speed at which a person reads.


Reading Process: a reader being involved with the text before (setting a purpose for reading), during (reading, monitoring comprehension, investigating terms they do not understand), and after (referring back to the text to strengthen understanding, answering questions, engaging in discussions, and completing projects) reading.


Recursive: moving back and forth through a text in either reading or writing, as new ideas are developed or problems encountered. See also Reading Process and Writing Process.


Rhyme: words that have the same ending sound.


Rime: a vowel plus what follows in a syllable (e.g., -out in shout). See also Onset.


Root: a bound morpheme, usually of Latin or Greek origin, that cannot stand alone but is used to form a family of words with related meanings (e.g., struct, logy).



Secondary Source: an interpretation or analysis of a primary source (e.g., a book about diaries kept during the Holocaust, a book about Great Depression photography, an op-ed from a later date about how New Orleans handled the Hurricane Katrina aftermath).


Segmenting: to separate individual phonemes, or sounds, of a word into discrete units (e.g., flat = /f/ /l/ /a/ /t/).


Semantics: the study of word and phrase meanings and relationships.


Sequential Structure: a text structure in which ideas are grouped on the basis of order or time.


Setting: the time and place in which events in a literary text take place.


Sight-Word Vocabulary: a student’s pool of words that are instantly and effortlessly recognized from memory, regardless of whether they are phonically regular or irregular.


Simile: a comparison of two things that are unlike, usually using the words like or as.


Stem: a word with all of its inflectional endings removed.


Structural Analysis: a procedure for teaching students to read words formed with prefixes, suffixes, or other meaningful word parts.


Style: a writer’s distinct usage of diction, syntax, and mechanics.


Suffix: a morpheme added to the end of root or base word that contributes to or modifies the meaning of a word.


Summarize: to reduce large selections of text to the base essentials, including only the key ideas or main points worth noting.


Supporting Details: evidence that explains or backs up a main idea using reasons, examples, facts, or steps.


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: an object, person, place, or action that has both a meaning in itself and also stands for something larger than itself, such as a quality, attitude, belief, or value.


Synonyms: words which have the same meaning.


Syntax: the arrangement of words and order of grammatical elements in a sentence.


Synthesize: to merge ideas from multiple texts and schema to create original insights, perspectives, or understandings. See also Prior Knowledge.



Theme: the central, implied meaning(s) of a literary work.


Thesis: the guiding, arguable claim an essay attempts to prove through evidence and reasoning. See also Claim.


Tone: a writer or speaker’s attitude toward a subject, character, or audience conveyed through the choice of words and detail.


Topic: the subject of an entire paragraph or text selection.



Usage: a culture’s accepted and expected word choice and mechanics, which can change over time. Organizations and style guides sometimes have different usage rules about the same topic such as singular they or the Oxford comma.


Verbal cues: words and phrases that speakers use to add emphasis, clarify organization, make connections, and create ethos, which listeners can use to determine a speaker’s message, argument, and/or credibility.


Voice: the distinctive style or manner of expression of a writer or a character.


Vowel Digraph: two vowels together that represent one phoneme or sound (e.g., oa in boat).


Vowel Diphthong: vowel combinations having two vowel sounds (e.g., oi as in boil, oy as in boy).



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.


Writing Modes: the major types of writing—narrative, informative, opinion, and argumentative.


Writing Process: a writer’s unique movement between the stages of prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and/or publishing. See also Recursive Writing Process in the Appendix on page 4.









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Last updated on June 29, 2022