Alphabetic Principle: The alphabetic principle is how phonemic awareness and knowledge of letter-sound correspondences come together in the practical application of reading and spelling.

Analytic phonics: (sometimes referred to as Analytical phonics or Implicit phonics) refers to the name of an approach in which phonics is taught and it starts at the word level, not at the sound (phoneme) level.

Auditory Discrimination: The ability of to hear likenesses and differences in phonemes or words, assuming normal hearing acuity.

Automaticity: (referenced in reading) is the fast, effortless word recognition that comes with a great deal of reading practice. Automaticity refers only to accurate, speedy word recognition, not to reading with expression. Therefore, automaticity (or automatic word recognition) is necessary, but not sufficient, for fluency.

Closed Syllable: A syllable ending in a consonant which is usually short.

Consonant – le: A syllable found at the end of the word; the e is always silent.

Cognitive: Referring to a level of conscious mental processing (thinking).

CVC words: Consonant Vowel Consonant (bat, cat, fed, lap).

Decode: To read by breaking apart components of a word; blending of sounds together to make a word.

Digraph: Two-letter grapheme representing one phoneme (sh, th, ch).

Diphthong: Two vowels making two separate sounds but said as one sound e.g. ou in house, oi in oil.

Direct Instruction: Telling the student directly what you want them to know and not waiting for them to “discover” it.

DSM–5: A manual for the assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders which contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It provides a common language for clinicians to communicate about their patients and establishes consistent and reliable diagnoses that can be used in the research of mental disorders.

Encode: To spell, using auditory sense to help put together the components of a word.

Explicit: means that the teacher clearly explains and models key skills, with well-chosen examples. Children are not expected to develop these skills based mainly on exposure and incidental learning opportunities.

Fluency: The ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression.

Grapheme: A letter or group of letters representing a phoneme in writing.

Kinaesthetic: Motor (handwriting).

Monosyllabic : One syllable

Morpheme: The smallest meaningful unit in a language.

Morphology: The meaningful parts of words, the relationships amongst words, the study of base words, roots, and affixes.

Multisensory: Using ears (auditory), eyes (visual), and hand (kinaesthetic) senses to reinforce in the brain memory of the components of language.

Onset and Rime: The “onset” is the initial phonological unit of any word (e.g. c in cat) and the term “rime” refers to the string of letters that follow, usually a vowel and final consonants (e.g. ‘at’ in cat).

Open Syllable: A syllable which ends with a single vowel and typically the sound is long.

Orthographic Mapping: The process of forming letter to sound connections in order to combine and recall the spelling, pronunciation, and the meaning of words. Orthographic mapping enables the ability to identify words by sight (i.e. sight words) allowing instant recognition and fluent and quick reading abilities.

Orthography: The writing system of spoken language. Orthography is defined as the practice of proper spelling, a way of spelling, or a study of spelling.

Phoneme: The word phoneme comes from the Greek word phonos, which means ‘sound’ or ‘voice’. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in spoken words. (Remember: phonemes are oral and letters are written.)

Phoneme Awareness: The ability to recognise and manipulate individual phonemes in spoken words. There are 7 skills that comprise phonemic awareness. These skills are:

  • Phoneme Isolation  e.g. What is the first sound in the word ‘soup’?
  • Auditory Discrimination e.g. Which of these words don’t belong: ‘beg, ball, hat’?
  • Phoneme Blending e.g. What word is this /s/ /o/ /k/?
  • Phoneme Segmentation/Manipulation e.g. Tell me the sounds in the word ‘pale’.
  • Phoneme Deletion e.g. Say ‘stop.’ Now say it without the /s/.
  • Phoneme Addition e.g. Add /f/ to the beginning of ‘rail’.
  • Phoneme Substitution e.g. Say ‘dog’. Now change the /d/ to /l/.

Phonetics: The sound and symbol of language.

Phonics: Phonics has to do with printed language. It deals with the letters and the various sounds represented by those letters. It is a strategy for sounding out words. It is an academic skill.

Phonological Awareness: The ability to recognise and manipulate the sound properties of spoken words, such as syllables, initial sounds, rhyming parts, and phonemes. 

Phonological awareness includes all of the following:

  • Word Awareness
  • Rhyme Awareness
  • Phoneme Awareness
  • Syllable Awareness
  • Alliteration & Initial Sound Awareness

Phonology: Speech sound system. The study of speech sounds, including phonetics and phonemics. An overall description of the sounds of a given language.

Polysyllabic: Two or more syllables.

Prefix: A syllable placed before a root word.

R–Controlled: A syllable in which the vowel is followed by the single letter ‘r’. The vowel sound is controlled by the ‘r’.

Root: Basic element of a word to which a prefix or suffix may be added.

Scope and Sequence: A scope refers to the topics/skills taught in a curriculum, and the sequence is the order in which those skills are taught.

Semantics: The relationships amongst words that deal with the meaning of words and sentences.

Short-Term Memory: Memory that lasts only briefly, has rapid input and output, and is limited in capacity.

Silent E: A syllable with the long vowel sound created by the silent ‘e’.

Six Syllables of the English Language

  1. Closed Syllable
  2. Open Syllable
  3. Silent E Syllable
  4. Vowel Team
  5. Controlled R
  6. Consonant LE

Sound to Symbol: From the /a/ (phoneme) to the written grapheme (/ / means sound).

Suffix: A syllable placed after a root word.

Syllables: A syllable is a part of a word that contains a single vowel sound and that is pronounced as a unit. For example, ‘book’ has one syllable and ‘reading’ has two syllables. Every syllable has a vowel.

Symbol to Sound: From the written form grapheme to sound /a/ (phoneme).

Syntax: Syntax is the arrangement of words that make a sentence. Syntax is the grammatical structure of sentences. The format in which words are arranged to create sentences is called syntax.

Systematic: means that there is a planned sequence of instruction, with important prerequisite skills taught before more advanced skills, and with care taken not to introduce skills in a way that is unintentionally confusing. For instance, children are not expected to decode or spell complex words before they have learned to decode and spell simpler words, and teachers avoid introducing highly confusable phonics elements (such as b and p, or multiple short vowel sounds) simultaneously. Children also have ample opportunities to apply their developing skills in reading texts they are capable of decoding and comprehending.

Systematic Synthetic Phonics: is the way phonics is taught.

Trigraph: Three letter grapheme representing one phoneme (sound).

Vowel Team: A syllable containing two vowels that together make one vowel sound.

Working Memory: is a cognitive system with a limited capacity that is responsible for temporarily holding information available for processing. Working memory is important for reasoning and the guidance of decision-making and behaviour. Working memory is often used synonymously with short-term memory, but some theorists consider the two forms of memory distinct, assuming that working memory allows for the manipulation of stored information, whereas short-term memory only refers to the short-term storage of information. Working memory is a theoretical concept central to cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, and neuroscience.


This document is now available to downloaded – Glossary

This document was created by Sharon Scurr founder of the deb in August 2021