abstraction—The ability to distill an essential message or meaning from a text. Abstraction is an essential skill for summarizing and many kinds of analysis.

accommodations—Techniques and materials that are legally required to reduce or eliminate the impact of a learning disability on successful learning and performance. Examples of accommodations include spell-checkers, tape recorders, and expanded time for completing assignments.

adaptations—Alternative techniques and/or materials provided by a teacher for individual learners to increase the effectiveness of instruction. Unlike accommodations, which are legally required for persons with documented disabilities, adaptations may be made for any learner, on an as-needed basis, and do not require the documentation of a disability. Two examples of adaptations are as follows: providing large-print materials for older learners with diminished visual acuity or allowing the use of native language dictionaries for learners whose primary language is not English.

adapted materials—Authentic texts and other materials that have been modified for lower-level learners. The format, vocabulary, grammatical forms, or sentence structure of authentic materials can be adapted. (See also authentic materials.)

advance organizersSee graphic organizers.

allusion—A figure of speech that makes a brief reference to a literary work or a historical event.

analysis—An examination of the elements of a text to reveal how the text operates as a whole. In writing, analysis is a method of idea development in which the writer closely breaks apart a subject or topic to examine its parts and the relationships of the parts to reach new conclusions about the whole.

analytical or technical focus—Writing that has as its central focus a controlling idea that must use analysis (the breaking down and examining of parts) to develop that focus. A technical focus would indicate a highly specialized form of writing, such as that usually found in the technical fields (e.g., science) that has as its focus a controlling idea pertaining to that specific field.

anchor activities—Activities that extend the curriculum and in which learners may participate if they have spare time while waiting for the teacher’s help or after they have completed a task.

antithesis—A contrast or opposition of thought; the opposite. In persuasive writing, it is the idea that every argument generates a counterargument. In effective persuasive writing, opposing arguments should be addressed and rebutted.

argument—A writer’s informed, supportable opinion or stand.

assessment—The process of gathering, describing, or quantifying information about performance. It is a general term that refers to tests and other measures, such as oral reading performances, collections of writings and other work products, teacher observations, and self-evaluations. It is the process of collecting and analyzing data to make educational decisions. (See also portfolio.)

  • alternative assessment (also called authentic or performance assessment)—Any of a variety of assessments that allow teachers to evaluate learners’ understanding or performance. It is an assessment that requires learners to generate a response to a question rather than choose from a set of responses provided to them. Examples include exhibitions, investigations, demonstrations, written or oral responses, journals, performance assessments, portfolios, journals, and authentic assessments.
  • assessment portfolio—A selection of a learner’s writing submitted for assessment purposes. The learner, in conferences with teachers, chooses the entries for this portfolio. Ideally, the writings will grow naturally out of instruction rather than being created solely for the portfolio.
  • authentic assessmentSee alternative assessment.
  • formative assessment—A part of the instructional process. When incorporated into classroom practice, it provides the information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening. In this sense, formative assessment informs both teachers and learners about learner understanding at a point when timely adjustments can be made. These adjustments help to ensure learners achieve targeted standards-based learning goals within a set time frame. Although formative assessment strategies appear in a variety of formats, there are some distinct ways to distinguish them from summative assessments.
  • performance assessmentSee alternative assessment.
  • summative assessment—An assessment given periodically to determine at a particular point in time what learners know and do not know. Summative assessments may take the form of standardized tests, such as state assessments or assessments at the district or classroom level for accountability purposes, and generally are used as part of the grading process. They provide a means to gauge learning relative to content standards. Summative assessments happen too far down the learning path to provide information at the classroom level and make instructional adjustments and interventions during the learning process. Formative assessment accomplishes this.

assistive technology—Equipment that enhances learners’ ability to access instruction and be more efficient and successful. Examples include computer grammar checkers, teacher use of an overhead projector, or audiovisual information delivered through a CD-ROM.

attention deficit disorder (ADD)—A disorder characterized by severe and persistent difficulties in one or more of the following areas: attention, impulsivity, and motor behaviors. These difficulties can lead to learning and behavior problems at home, school, or work. (See also attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].)

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—Attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity or excessive and exaggerated motor activity.

audience—The specific person or readership for whom a piece of writing is intended. Awareness of an authentic audience affects important decisions a writer makes about the piece (e.g., purposes, methods of support, organization, word choice, details, form, voice, and tone).

audience awareness—A writer’s assessment of the mind-set, opinions, and personal traits of readers and how these factors may influence readers’ understanding of his or her writing.

auditory—Having to do with the sense of hearing.

  • auditory discrimination—The ability to differentiate among speech sounds.
  • auditory perception—The ability to recognize sounds.
  • auditory memory—The ability to remember information that has been presented orally.

authentic—Original, realistic, and genuine. When applied to writing, authentic means that the work is the learner’s own, done for a realistic purpose and readership and in a realistic form that logically fits the purpose and audience or situation. The writing reveals a genuine effort to communicate with others; it is not merely an academic exercise.

  • authentic assessmentSee assessment.
  • authentic materials—Actual reading or listening materials, not modified or simplified, from the real world (e.g., newspaper articles, pamphlets, and radio broadcasts). (See also adapted materials.)
  • authentic task—An assignment given to learners designed to assess their ability to apply standard-driven knowledge and skills to real-world challenges.

author’s craft—The techniques an author chooses to enhance writing. Examples include style, bias, point of view, flashback, foreshadowing, symbolism, figurative language, sensory details, soliloquy, and stream of consciousness.

automaticity—Automatic and correct responses to stimuli without conscious effort.


backward design—A method of designing curriculum by setting goals before choosing activities or content to teach. The idea is to teach toward those goals, which ensures that the content taught remains focused and organized, promoting a better understanding for learners. Backward design challenges traditional methods of curriculum planning, in which the teacher lists the content to be taught and proceeds to assessment to measure the extent to which learners have mastered the content. With backward design, the teacher starts with goals, then assessments, and finally lesson plans.

background knowledge—Information that is essential to understanding a situation or a problem. It is what one already knows about a subject.

benchmarksSee standards.

Bloom’s taxonomy—A hierarchy of six levels within the cognitive domain, from the simple recall or recognition of facts (knowledge) as the lowest level through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels (understanding, application, analysis, synthesis) to the highest order (evaluation). Benjamin Bloom created this taxonomy for categorizing levels of abstraction in questions that commonly occur in educational settings.

brainstorming—A group thinking process for developing creative solutions to problems. The group thinks open-mindedly about a topic or a problem and generates a written list of possibilities without worrying if any possibility is reasonable or not. One of the reasons this technique is effective is that the brainstormers not only come up with new ideas but also spark associations from other people’s ideas by developing and refining them.


carousel brainstorming—A strategy in which learners brainstorm responses to prompts or questions written on a flipchart page and placed at five different stations around the room. Learners rotate from station to station and discuss their responses with others in their group. Teachers may use carousel brainstorming as a preassessment tool or as a review opportunity.

chunking—The working memory has a capacity for immediate recall that is limited to five to nine pieces of unrelated items. If information is separated into chunks of that size, learners can remember it more successfully.

cloze procedure—An activity created by the teacher to give learners practice with language usage. The teacher selects a passage of text, marks out some of the words, and then rewrites the text with blank lines where the marked out words were. The result is a "fill in the blank" activity that should be enjoyable for the learner while at the same time giving the teacher information about the learner’s language skills.

cognitive learning—Learning that is concerned with acquisition of problem-solving abilities and with intelligence and conscious thought; it is demonstrated by knowledge recall and skills such as comprehension; ability to organize, analyze, and synthesize ideas and data; applying knowledge; and evaluating ideas or actions.

cognitive map—The psychological definition of a cognitive map is the framework in the human mind through which we interpret objects, events, and concepts. The phrase cognitive mapping also has been used to describe concept maps.

cognitive skills—Skills that are used for thinking, comprehending, analyzing, or evaluating.

cognitive strategy—A strategy or group of strategies or procedures that a learner uses to perform academic tasks or improve social skills. Often, more than one cognitive strategy is used with others, depending on the learners and their schema for learning. In fact, research indicates that successful learners use numerous strategies. Some of these strategies include visualization, verbalization, making associations, chunking, questioning, scanning, underlining, accessing cues, using mnemonics, sounding out words, and self-checking and monitoring.

cognitive strategy instruction (CSI)—An instructional approach that emphasizes the development of thinking skills and processes as a means to enhance learning. The objective of CSI is to enable all learners to become more strategic, self-reliant, flexible, and productive in their learning endeavors. CSI is based on the assumption that there are identifiable cognitive strategies, previously believed to be used by only the best and the brightest learners, which can be taught to most learners. The use of these strategies has been associated with successful learning.

coherence—The quality achieved when all ideas in a written passage are clearly arranged and connected. The arrangement of ideas, within and among paragraphs, should be organized in such a way that the reader can easily move from one point to another. When all ideas are arranged and connected, a piece of writing has coherence.

collaborative learning—Any kind of work that involves two or more learners.

compacting—A strategy that allows learners to demonstrate what they already know or can do, provides an opportunity to learn or master what they do not already know, and then allows them to spend the time earned from compacting to participate in enrichment, or extension activities, and/or accelerated study.

concept mapSee graphic organizers.

conference—A writer-centered conversation with a teacher, a peer, or others about a piece of writing with the intent of exploring process strategies and/or revision and editing possibilities. Conferencing is an important instructional strategy. It provides specific feedback at the point at which a writer can best make use of it.

connected instruction—As a key principle of learning disabilities–appropriate instruction, it involves showing the adult learner how information in and between units and lessons is linked to learning and to the adult’s goals.

connectionism—Edward L. Thorndike’s behavioral theory that learning occurs as the result of connections made in the mind between stimuli and responses.

constructivist models—Models based on the philosophy that knowledge cannot be transferred from the teacher to the learner but must be constructed by each individual. Connections must be made between the learner’s existing conceptual network and the new material to be learned.

content mastery approach—A teaching method wherein a learner receives intensive instruction in topics that are needed for daily living, such as obtaining insurance, getting a driver’s license, completing tax forms, and procuring health care services.

conventions—Features of standard written English that usually include sentence formation, grammar, spelling, usage, punctuation, and capitalization.

content-based instruction—Using subject matter such as life-skills topics (e.g., housing and work), themes, or academic course materials (e.g., math, science, and social studies) as a basis for language teaching.

content standardsSee standards.

contextualized instruction—Instruction that is presented within a meaningful context to facilitate learning (e.g., the grammatical structure of commands taught within the context of a doctor’s visit: "Open your mouth." "Raise your arms.").

cooperative learning—A range of team-based learning approaches in which learners share knowledge and work together to complete a task. Cooperative learning originated in the 1960s with the work of David Johnson and Roger Johnson. True cooperative learning includes five essential elements: positive interdependence, face-to-face interactions, individual accountability, some structured activity, and team-building (group processing) skills.

cooperative planning—The teacher announces a topic or a problem and asks learners to help think about the best ways to deal with it.

coping strategy—A method or behavioral strategy that helps an individual succeed despite learning or other disabilities.

COPS (capitalization/organization/punctuation/spelling)—A process that helps learners remember the aspects of their writing that they should check when editing.

correctness—Writing that is presented in a format acceptable to one’s audience, community, or writing instructor. Correctness is not necessarily a standard of inherent value, but being able to maintain standards of acceptability is a survival skill for academic writers, in fact so much so that it has frequently been confused with "learning to write." In class, correct writing varies according to the assignment, the phase of writing (such as freewriting or graded draft), the genre, and other factors. Most of our writing instructors allow for multiple revisions that facilitate better proofreading. (See also mechanics, grammar, and proofread/proofreading.)

  • correctness issues—A feature of writing, such as spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, and documentation. Concern with correctness too early in the process inhibits fluency and revision.

counterargumentSee antithesis.

criteria—Guidelines, rules, characteristics, or dimensions used to judge the quality of learner performance. Criteria indicate what we value in learner responses, products, or performances. They may be holistic, analytic, general, or specific. (See also scoring rubrics.)

critical content—Specific information that a learner needs to master for a given task, such as the skills needed to pass a driver’s test.

critical thinking—Skilled and active interpretation and evaluation of observations and communications; reasonable, reflective thinking that focuses on deciding what to believe or do. It is relevant not only to the formation and checking of beliefs but also to deciding on and evaluating actions. It involves creative activities such as formulating hypotheses, plans, and counterexamples; planning experiments; and seeing alternatives.

cubing—As a strategy for differentiating instruction, it allows a teacher to plan diverse activities for different learners or groups of learners based on readiness, learning style, and/or interests. The teacher creates a cube for a group of learners. On each of the cube’s six faces, the teacher describes a different task related to the subject and/or concept being learned.

cues—Visual or verbal prompts to either remind the learner what has already been learned or provide an opportunity to learn something new. Cues can also be employed to prompt learner use of a strategy.

cue-do-review—A teaching strategy to help ensure learning: the teacher should cue the learner, explaining the level of instruction, do the activities in partnership with the learner, and review the learning at the end of each level.

culture—Shared values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and language use within a social group. These cultural values, beliefs, and practices are at the core of group life and identity and are powerful forces that shape or influence individual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

cultural competence—An ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. It consists of four components: (1) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (2) attitude toward cultural differences, (3) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (4) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures.

cultural dissonance—A phenomenon that may present itself when someone who participates in multiple cultures is faced with situations where there are perceived conflicts between a set of rules from one culture and the rules of another. May also refer to an uncomfortable sense of discord, disharmony, confusion, or conflict experienced by people in the midst of change in their cultural environments. The changes are often unexpected, unexplained, or not understandable as a result of various types of cultural dynamics.

curriculum—What should take place in the classroom. It describes the topics, themes, units, and questions contained within the content standards, which are the framework for the curriculum.


decoding—A process of recognizing unfamiliar written words by sequentially segmenting the sounds represented by the letters of the word and then blending the sounds into a meaningful word or syllables that are then combined into words.

diagnosis—The confirmation of the existence of a condition by someone qualified to reach such a conclusion. For example, a licensed psychologist can make a diagnosis of a learning disability.

diagnostic test—An aid to assessment that yields information concerning a learner’s weaknesses in areas such as reading or math. It is composed of several parts, including personal history and psychoeducational tests.

dialogue writing—The re-creation of a conversation scene as if it were occurring in real time, usually by using direct quotation and attributing this to specific characters.

differentiated instruction—Occurs when the teacher provides multiple options for learners to take information, make sense of ideas, and express what they learn. In providing diverse avenues for learners to access information, the teacher ensures that each learner learns effectively. The components of differentiated instruction include the following: (1) what to teach, or content; (2) how to teach it, or process; (3) how to find out whether learners have learned it; and (4) the environment in which the instruction occurs.

direct instruction—A teacher-centered instructional approach that emphasizes the use of carefully sequenced steps that include demonstration, modeling, guided practice, and independent application. It is characterized by high rates of teacher control during the initial stages of information acquisition, followed by careful performance monitoring as the learner gradually assumes control over application. The instruction is structured, modular, and sequential (simple to complex and concrete to abstract). The teacher provides the learners with much of the information they need, often through lectures, explanations, examples, and problem solving. Most direct instruction techniques allow for only minimal learner-teacher interaction, and they need to be supplemented by review, practice, and group discussions.


editing—Checking for and correcting errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and usage. Editing becomes a concern only after writers are satisfied that the writing clearly says what they want it to say; editing is the final stage of document preparation. (See also proofread/proofreading.)

emergent literacy—The concept that learning to read or write does not happen quickly but is built on many small steps that occur over the course of a child’s early childhood. The process begins with activities that happen naturally in the home, such as talking with and reading with the child and then continues in the classroom with more formalized strategies to encourage reading and writing.

elaboration—Words used to explain and in some way support the central idea; it is the development and expansion of ideas and arguments. Elaboration varies with the type of writing. (For example, a report may have statistics, examples, anecdotes, and facts, while a narrative would have description, dialogue, show-not-tell, and other related items.)

embedded questions—Embedded questions begin with phrases such as "Do you know…" and "Can you tell me…" and are followed by a noun clause that begins with who, what, where, when, why, how, or if. In the noun clause, the verb order is not transposed as it is in a question, (e.g., Can you tell me where it is?)

embedded statements—Embedded statements look as if they are questions inside sentences. An introductory clause is followed by a noun clause that begins with who, what, where, when, why, how, or if. In the noun clause, the verb order is not transposed as it is in a question (e.g., I don’t know who he is. I can’t remember where I put it. I wonder when she left.)

encoding—A process in spelling by which learners segment sounds of a word, translate each phoneme into its corresponding letter, and then spell the word. Encoding requires predictable sound-symbol correspondences and phonic generalizations (spelling rules).

essay planning—Prewriting strategies and techniques, such as freewriting on the essay topic, writing a proposal, outlining, and research.

executive function—Cognitive processing of information that takes place in areas in the left frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex that exercise conscious control over one’s emotions and thoughts. This control allows for patterned information to be used for analyzing, connecting, organizing, planning, prioritizing, sequencing, self-monitoring, self-correcting, and sorting, as well as abstracting, assessing, focusing attention, problem solving, and linking information to appropriate actions.

exit cards—A formative assessment technique whereby learners fill out a 3-by-5 card at the end of class and respond to open-ended questions posed by the teacher. It is a great way for a teacher to assess learner understanding and readiness for the next lesson.

experiential learning—Carl Roger’s theory that there are two types of learning: cognitive (memorizing or studying simply because work is assigned) and experiential (learning to satisfy the needs and wants of the learner). Studying a book with commonly used phrases in Norwegian is experiential if you are planning a trip to Norway, but the same activity is cognitive if you are taking a language class and the teacher assigns reading from the book.

explicit instruction—The intentional design and delivery of information by a teacher to learners. It involves presenting content clearly and directly, providing detailed explanations and models about how to approach, think about, perform, and evaluate learning and performance. It includes three steps: (1) the teacher’s modeling or demonstration of the skill or strategy; (2) a structured and substantial opportunity for learners to practice and apply newly taught skills and knowledge under the teacher’s direction and guidance; and (3) an opportunity for feedback.

expository text—Expository text presents and explains facts and information about a topic. It is distinguished from narrative text, which tells a story or relates a series of events.


facilitative questioning—To facilitate means to help another person accomplish something. Facilitative questioning is an approach whereby a teacher or a counselor poses open-ended questions to learners to allow them to explore ideas that may be complex or emotionally difficult. In writing classes, the purpose of facilitative questions is to allow a teacher to give assistance to learners without actually contributing new ideas to the work being written. In counseling, the purpose of facilitative questions is to allow learners to generate their own solutions to problems or tasks without being unduly influenced by the counselor’s ideas. Facilitative questioning is used most often in situations where there is no right answer, but the solution is dependent on what is best for the individual.

feedback—The means by which a teacher informs a learner about the quality or correctness of the learner’s products or actions.

figurative language—Techniques used in writing (particularly expressive writing) to create images (e.g., similes, metaphors, alliteration, assonance, personification, onomatopoeia); it is language that communicates ideas beyond the ordinary or literal meaning of the words (e.g., simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification). Examples are found in phrases such as the following: "perky as a puppy," "eyes like burning coals," and "a stony silence."

flexible grouping—A method of grouping and regrouping learners according to differences in readiness/performance, interests, and learning profiles. Learners may work in groups with different learners several times a day or in a week.

fluency—The flow of words and ideas and the ease with which a writer generates and expresses those ideas in writing.

focus—A writer’s main point or idea.

formative assessmentSee assessment.

freewriting—A timed activity to stimulate the flow of ideas and words; it is unplanned, unstructured writing that is usually not graded or evaluated. Learners are given a topic and must write everything they can think of about the topic. Learners must not stop writing, even if they "run out of things to say," and they may not do any editing or criticism during the writing.


generalizable instruction—Activities before, during, and after information has been mastered that ensures the continued application of the information by learners to increase life success outside the literacy setting. It refers to how well learners use information outside the classroom to increase their success in life.

general-to-specific sequencing—An instructional approach in which objectives are presented to learners, beginning with general principles and proceeding to specific concepts.

generative revision—See holistic revision.

generative writing—Writing, usually unstructured, that leads to a greater flow of ideas and usually to more structured and developed writing. Freewriting, journal writing, reading responses, and other types of brainstorming exercises are common types of generative writing.

genre—A literacy category or form of writing (e.g., article, short story, poem, editorial); the main literary genres are fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Each type conforms to specific expected rules and, often, a unique format. It is also any generally recognized classification of texts, such as a short story, a novel, a play, an epic or a lyric poem, and an essay.

goal setting—An effective tool for making progress by ensuring that learners are clearly aware of what is expected from them if an objective is to be achieved. It involves establishing specific, measurable, and time-targeted objectives.

gradual release—An evidence-based instructional model in which a teacher purposefully transitions from performing a task to mentoring learners to gradually assume responsibility until they can perform the task independently. It is a means of mentoring learners to become capable thinkers and learners in performing tasks they have not yet mastered. This model of instruction has been documented as an effective approach for improving writing achievement, reading comprehension, and literacy outcomes for English language learners.

grammar—The structure of language. In the context of writing instruction, it is frequently misapplied to mean correctness in a written text ("good grammar," "bad grammar"). (See also correctness.)

graphic organizers—Visuals used to organize information so it can be more easily represented, recalled, or understood (e.g., word webs, flowcharts, Venn diagrams, charts, and tables). These mental maps help learners make connections between concepts. Graphic organizers represent key skills, such as sequencing, comparing and contrasting, and classifying. They involve learners actively in the thinking process, and they provide tools to help learners organize and structure information. They can be used in advance, during, and/or after presentation of information: those used before learning (an advance organizer) help remind learners of what they already know about a subject; those used during learning provide cues for what to look for in the resources or information; and those used during review activities help remind learners of the number and variety of components to remember.

  • advance organizer—A concise overview or summary of a larger body of information that is used to gain prior knowledge before reading or listening to the larger body of information.
  • concept map—Any of several forms of graphic organizers that allow learners to perceive relationships between concepts through diagramming keywords representing those concepts. Joseph Novak originated the concept map in the 1960s.
  • KWHL—A graphic organizer or preassessment tool consisting of four columns, "know," "want to know," "how to find out," and "learn."
  • KWL chart—A graphic organizer or preassessment tool consisting of three columns: "know," "want to know," and "learn." Learners list in the left column what they know about a topic or idea and in the center column what they want to know about the topic or idea. Then, after reading or instruction, they return to the chart to list in the right column what they learned about the topic or idea or what they still would like to learn. KWL charts can be completed as a class with the teacher or independently.
  • mind map—A graphic organizer that is used to develop ideas and organize information. Mind mapping helps to identify central ideas, the relative importance of other ideas, and how they are connected. A main or central word or image is placed in the center of a piece of paper and then key words, symbols, images, and abbreviations are added as subideas. Subideas should be on lines that ultimately connect to the center. Each new line should be open, allowing space for more connections to subideas farther from the center. Mind maps are used for a prewriting activity, note taking, developing grocery lists, brainstorming sessions, and other related tasks.
  • Venn diagram—A graphic organizer (interconnected circles) used to demonstrate how two subjects or topics overlap and how they are unique.

group revision exercise—An exercise that teaches revision strategies or allows learners to employ revision strategies on each other’s writing. It is usually done in small groups of two to six people.

guided discovery—A teaching model in which learners are taught through explorations but with directions from a teacher.

guided practice—Learners practice a skill with teacher guidance so that they gradually move toward excellence. Guided practice should be conducted in small steps and should be intensely supervised. It should prevent the development of consistent error patterns and inappropriate practices. This means that guided practice must be designed and implemented so that errors are identified and reteaching is conducted immediately. The important element seems to be the provision of controlled practice with positive teacher feedback. (See also gradual release.) The effectiveness of guided practice can be evaluated by measures of learner success in independent practice. If learners are at least 80 percent successful when they begin the subsequent independent practice, then guided practice has been appropriately conducted. (See also scaffolding/scaffolded instruction as a vehicle to provide guided practice.)

guided writing—A teacher and learners (or pairs or small groups of learners) compose together. They go through the steps of the writing process together: brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and producing a final product.


habits of mind—A process that centers on the idea that learners can learn more effectively if they regulate their own thought processes.

higher-order thinking skills (HOTS)—In the simplest sense, higher-order thinking is any thinking that goes beyond the recall of basic facts. The two key reasons to improve HOTS are to enable learners to apply facts to solve real-world problems and improve the retention of facts. In addition to its basic meaning, HOTS is also used to refer to a specific program designed to teach higher-order thinking skills through the use of computers and the Socratic method for teaching thinking skills.

holistic revision (also referred to as generative revision)—A process in which a writer seeks to improve the entire essay (i.e., strengthen the argument, improve the support, improve overall clarity and organization, and add depth and detail) rather than simply revise for local and superficial errors. (See also revision.)


independent practice—One learner works independently or with other learners, without teacher intervention, to practice new skills or strategies. This approach includes many activities performed on a computer.

independent study—Opportunities for learners at all readiness levels to pursue topics that interest them.

indirect instruction—This approach to teaching presents learners with instructional stimuli in the form of materials, objects, and events and requires them to go beyond the basic information they are given to make their own conclusions and generalizations. Indirect instruction allows teachers to engage learners in activities that require the learners to learn independently. The role of the teacher is facilitator, supporter, and resource person. The teacher arranges the learning environment, provides opportunity for learner involvement, and, when appropriate, provides feedback to learners while they conduct the inquiry.

individualized education plan (IEP)—A specifically tailored program designed to meet the distinctive needs of learners diagnosed with a disability.

individualized instruction—As a key principle of learning disabilities–appropriate instruction, it involves maintaining a high degree of learner attention and response during ongoing instructional interactions that are scheduled as frequently and as close together as possible.

inductive thinking—Analyzing individual observations to come to general conclusions and proceed from facts to the "big picture."

inference—In the context of reading, it is a conclusion drawn from evidence in a text that leads to knowledge or understanding that is not directly stated in print. In making inferences, a reader understands what is not explicitly stated by filling in information from his or her background knowledge. This process is often called "reading between the lines."

informal essay—An essay in which a writer uses his or her own experiences, thoughts, memories, opinions, and related ideas to make a focused observation or argument. The diction is conversational and less formal than that of most academic essay genres. (See also narrative, personal narrative, and reflective essay.)

inquiry—The process by which learners investigate subjects that interest them. Embedded across all content areas and grade levels, inquiry promotes learner ownership and authenticity in their work.

intensive instruction—Learner engagement and time are the defining factors in intensive instruction. In intensive instruction, learners are paying attention and actively engaged in learning tasks—listening, thinking, responding, creating, or otherwise working—and doing so frequently for significant amounts of time.

interest centers—A classroom area that contains a collection of exploration activities related to the specific interests of learners.

interest inventory—An assessment tool designed to help a teacher determine learner interests. These may be open-ended or very controlled and specific.

inverted pyramid—A writing format in which the most important information is presented first, followed by the next most important information, and closing with the least important information. Although most commonly used in news reporting, it is useful in teaching learners to prioritize information. Also known as the journalism model.


jigsaw—A type of collaborative work in which learners read and examine a portion of a reading assignment and report what they have learned to the entire group. It is an effective way to vary content according to complexity or depth of content to match reading readiness levels. It is also a great way to involve learners in subject matter presented in text.

journal—Writing done in a notebook, typically for a few minutes each day, that is often used to encourage reflection or the exploration of ideas of interest to learners. Journal writing is typically not graded and, in some instances, is not read by anyone but the learner. In other instances, the journal can be used to establish an ongoing written dialogue between the learner and the teacher.

journalism modelSee inverted pyramid.


KWL chartSee graphic organizers.

KWHLSee graphic organizers.

kinesthetic—Learning by doing.


learning centers—A classroom area that contains a collection of activities or materials designed to teach, reinforce, or extend a particular skill or concept.

learning disabilities—A variety of neurological disorders, including differences in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language. Learning disabilities are lifelong conditions not related to visual or auditory deficiencies and are not the result of delays in mental development. Specific learning disabilities include the following:

  • developmental aphasia—A severe language disorder that is presumed to be due to a brain injury rather than a developmental delay in the normal acquisition of language.
  • dyscalculia—A severe difficulty in understanding and using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.
  • dysgraphia—A severe difficulty in producing handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed.
  • dyslexia—A severe difficulty in understanding or using one or more areas of language, including listening, speaking, reading, writing, and spelling.
  • dysnomia—A marked difficulty in remembering names or recalling words needed for oral or written language.
  • dyspraxia—A severe difficulty in performing drawing, writing, buttoning, and other tasks requiring fine motor skills or in sequencing the necessary movements.

learning modalities—The means through which information is perceived, such as visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic means.

learning stations or centers—Different spots in the classroom where learners work on various tasks simultaneously. They invite flexible grouping because not all learners need to go to all the stations all the time, and not all learners spend the same amount of time at each station. Stations work in concert with one another, and there are usually several stations related to the same subject. (See also interest centers.)

learning strategy—A set of specific actions, behaviors, steps, or techniques used by learners to accomplish a particular task, such as taking a test, comprehending text, and writing a story, and improve learning (e.g., using a graphic organizer and using context clues). A first-letter mnemonic is often used to help learners follow the steps of the strategy. Also, it is how a person approaches learning, including how that person thinks and acts before, during, and after a task, and how a person evaluates the impact of the strategy on learning and performance.

learning strategy approaches—Instructional approaches that focus on efficient ways to learn, rather than curriculum. They include specific techniques for organizing, actively interacting with material, memorizing, and monitoring any content or subject.

lesson planning—A written plan that notes the method of delivery, the activities, and the specific goals and timelines associated with the delivery of lesson content. It is like a roadmap that helps a teacher know what to do in a class, including the sequence of activities, to help learners achieve the stated learning goals.

locus of control—The tendency to attribute success and difficulties either to internal factors, such as effort, or external factors, such as chance. Individuals with learning disabilities tend to blame failure on themselves and achievement on luck, which leads to frustration and passivity.

logical reasoning—A catchall term for inductive and deductive thinking that is frequently used as a support for an argument or a thesis. It is frequently used by writers to point out flaws (logical fallacies) in an opposing point of view.


mastery learning—An instructional method that presumes all learners can learn if they are provided with the appropriate learning conditions. Specifically, mastery learning is a method whereby learners are not advanced to a subsequent learning objective until they demonstrate proficiency with the current one. Objectives for learning are established and communicated to learners. Learners progress at their own speed and continue to work until their performance indicates they have mastered each set of objectives.

mechanics—Usually refers to correct spelling, punctuation, and paper format (such as proper heading and pagination as indicated by the instructor or by style manuals from the Modern Language Association or the American Psychological Association).

mental models—Learners enter learning situations with existing knowledge. This knowledge is organized into patterns or models that help them explain phenomena. Learning involves adding to or altering a learner’s existing mental models.

metacognition—Refers to higher-order thinking that involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning: knowledge about one’s own information processing and strategies that influence one’s learning. By prompting learners to reflect on and identify the successful learning strategies that they used to solve a problem, teachers encourage learners to act on this awareness to choose appropriate learning strategies that optimize future learning. Successful learners monitor their own thought processes to decide whether they are learning effectively. Metacognitive activities include planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task.

  • metacognitive learning—An instructional approach that emphasizes awareness of the cognitive processes that facilitate one’s own learning and its application to academic and work assignments. Typical metacognitive techniques include the systematic rehearsal of steps or the conscious selection among strategies for completing a task.

metaphorical thinking—Thought in which unlike objects are compared to one another, frequently for an aesthetic effect, such as using figurative language to express a point of view.

mind mapSee graphic organizers.

miscue—A reading error; a deviation from the text during oral reading. Analyzing miscues and identifying patterns of errors may help an instructor understand the nature or origin of a reading problem.

mnemonic/mnemonic device—Pertaining to memory. It is a device for remembering information. Association techniques are used to remember specific information by linking the information to a word or a phrase, such as using the first-letter mnemonic HOMES to remember the names of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior or the first-letter mnemonic PLAN for writing: pay attention to the prompt, list main ideas, add supporting ideas, and number your ideas.

modeling—Showing learners how to accomplish a task or use a strategy by demonstrating it explicitly while using think-alouds. (See also think-aloud.)

morpheme—The smallest unit of meaning in a word, including prefixes, root words, and suffixes. It can be free form (as in the word pin) or bound (as in the s in pins).

multicultural awareness—An understanding, sensitivity, and appreciation of the history, values, experiences, and lifestyles of groups that include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, and mental/physical abilities.

multisensory learning—An instructional approach that combines auditory, visual, and tactile elements into a learning task (e.g., moving one’s finger under each syllable of a word as the word is read and sounded out or tracing sandpaper numbers while saying a number fact aloud).


narrative—A text that re-creates a scene or a series of related scenes or events; a story. A narrative is often used for a personal narrative, which is an essay that re-creates an event, events, scenes, or a series of scenes that happened in the writer’s experience or to someone that the writer knows, usually with a thesis. The personal narrative is also referred to as the informal essay or the reflective essay (See also informal essay, personal narrative, and reflective essay.)

National Reporting System (NRS)—The National Reporting System for Adult Education is an outcome-based reporting system for the state-administered, federally funded adult education program. Developed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL), the NRS continues a cooperative process through which state adult education directors and DAEL manage a reporting system that demonstrates learner outcomes for adult education. The project is conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in Washington, D.C.


Online Lesson Planner—The TEAL Lesson Planner is a tool to help adult educators design quality lesson plans in any content area. The Lesson Planner provides a template to help users develop lesson plans for adult education classes. It allows users to "backward" design lessons so that desired learner outcomes provide the foundation for the lesson design, stores lessons for future use, and allows sharing lessons with others. (See also backward design.)

organization—Clear evidence of a plan or a foundation on which writing is built. It includes an intentional introduction, internal/external transitions to connect ideas, and a conclusion.

orthography—The total writing system of spoken language. The term also refers to the established spelling rules of a written language.


pacing—The rate of movement and action of a narrative. Some examples of a problem with pacing include the following: the story may take a long time to build to the climax, it may have only one or two sentences about the climax, or it may end abruptly.

paragraph-level revision—Revision that employs techniques to structure paragraphs more effectively or add depth and detail at the paragraph level.

paragraph types—There are seven types of paragraphs: narration, exposition, definition, classification, description, process analysis, and persuasion.

paraphrasing—Restating the words of another writer in one’s own words. An author must identify paraphrases to avoid plagiarism. (See also summarizing.)

peer evaluation—An evaluation of a text by a peer (a classmate, a colleague, or a workshop member) rather than by an instructor or a workshop leader. Instructors frequently provide a list of evaluation techniques or criteria for peer evaluators to follow.

peer tutoring—Having learners work in pairs, with one learner tutoring the other on a particular concept.

perception—A process involving the reception, selection, differentiation, and integration of sensory stimuli. The teacher of learners with dyslexia must teach such learners to attend actively and consciously to aspects of the perception process until it becomes automatic.

performance standardsSee standards.

personal assessment—A writer’s evaluation of his or her own writing or other classroom performance.

personal essay—Writing that is focused on a central idea about the writer or the writer’s life and supported by a variety of incidents from the writer’s life.

personal narrative—An essay that re-creates an event, events, scenes, or a series of scenes that happened in the writer’s experience or to someone that the writer knows. It is writing about a significant incident in one’s life. (See also narrative and reflective essay.)

persuasion—Methods that a writer uses to convince his or her reader of the validity of an argument, including appeals to emotion as well as logic.

persuasiveSee writing genres.

phoneme—The smallest unit of speech that serves to distinguish one utterance from another in a language or dialect (as in the /b/ of bat and /m/ of mat). English is composed of 44 phonemes.

  • phoneme awareness—Awareness of the phonological structure of words is exemplified by the ability to manipulate or separate the sounds within words (e.g., which sounds come first or last, which words rhyme, and which sounds are the same or different), which implies meta-linguistic knowledge.
  • phonemic segmentation—The process of sequentially isolating the speech sounds that comprise a spoken word or syllable.

phonetics—The study of speech sounds, how they are produced (articulatory phonetics), how they are perceived (auditory phonetics), and their physical properties (acoustic phonetics).

phonics—A teaching approach that gives attention to letter-sound correspondences in the teaching of reading and spelling. Phonics is a teaching approach and should not be confused with phonetics.

  • phonological awareness—Speech-sound awareness is the conscious awareness of the sounds of language; the ability to reflect on the sounds in words separate from the meanings of words.
  • phonology—The sound system of a language; the part of grammar that includes the inventory of sounds and rules for their combination and pronunciation; the study of the sound systems of all languages.

plus-minus-interesting (PMI) chart—A device developed by Edward DeBono in which learners summarize their findings about a particular topic or idea by listing what is good about it, what is possibly negative about it, and what is interesting about it.

portfolio—A collection of learner work gathered to exhibit or demonstrate a learner’s efforts, progress, or achievement in one or more areas.

  • portfolio assessment—A portfolio becomes a portfolio assessment when (1) the assessment purpose is defined; (2) criteria or methods are made clear for determining what is put into the portfolio, by whom, and when; and (3) criteria for assessing either the collection or individual pieces of work are identified and used to make judgments about performance. Portfolios can be designed to assess learner progress, effort, and/or achievement and encourage learners to reflect on their learning. (See also assessment.)

POW+TREE—A mnemonic strategy that helps writers approach an essay writing task and check their work as they become more independent. For example, it helps writers remember to pick an idea, pay attention to the prompt, organize, write, and say more. TREE is a memory and visualization tool that helps writers structure their essays: the topic sentence is like the trunk of the tree that supports the whole argument; reasons (at least three) are like the roots of the argument; explain is a reminder to tell more about each reason; and, finally, ending is like the earth that wraps up the whole argument.

prewriting—The first stage of the writing process, typically followed by drafting, revision, editing, and publishing. Elements of prewriting may include planning, research, outlining, diagramming, storyboarding, or clustering.

prior knowledgeSee background knowledge.

problem-based learning—An approach to learning that places learners in the active role of solving problems in much the same way that adult professionals perform their jobs.

procedureSee writing genres.

process writing—A text in which a writer documents and reflects on his or her process in writing another text. It is frequently used as a method of personal assessment and is helpful to writing instructors in assessing their learners’ needs and progress as writers.

proficiency level—Portrays what learners at a particular level know and can do in relation to what is being measured. Proficiency levels are not to be confused with a program’s class design levels. Programs should use proficiency levels, though, to closely crosswalk with their program class design levels.

profile essay—An essay that relies on the personal experience of another as its source. Writers interview someone about his or her life and work and transform the interview into a biographical description of the person, focusing on one particular dominant impression of the person or some aspect of the person’s professional life.

progress monitoring—As a type of formative assessment, it is a scientifically based practice used to assess learners’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. It is a set of assessment procedures for determining the extent to which learners are benefiting from classroom instruction and for monitoring the effectiveness of curriculum. Progress monitoring can be implemented either with individual learners or an entire class. (See also assessment.)

proofread/proofreading—To read and make corrections. It is a methodical examination of a completed text for errors in syntax, spelling, mechanics, and formatting.

proposal—A formalized plan for an essay, usually a persuasive essay, in which a writer states his or her planned argument and the ways in which he or she intends to support it.

purpose—The specific reason for writing: the goal of the writing (to entertain, express, inform, explain, or persuade). Purpose has to do with the topic and the focus the writer is addressing—its central idea, theme, or message.


quickwrite—A method of having learners put down their thoughts without stopping for grammar, spelling, punctuation, or even organizing thoughts before writing. Learners think for one minute and write nonstop for two to three minutes about a specified topic. Quickwrites can then be used as prompts for further writing about the topic.

questions—There are two general types of questions: closed-ended, such as yes/no questions, and informational (often open-ended) questions. Informational questions begin with who, whom, what, where, when, why, how, and which. For example, "Do you like this class?" is a closed-ended question that requires a yes/no answer; "What do you like about this class?" is an open-ended question that requires learners to provide information.

questioning strategies—Effective teaching uses questioning strategies that assist learners in the development of thinking skills and increase comprehension. Teachers pose questions to learners to elicit deeper-level thinking about the subject under discussion.

  • adjusting questions—A strategy for differentiating instruction in which a teacher adjusts questions posed to learners based on their readiness, interests, and learning profile. This strategy is an excellent strategy for teachers new to differentiated instruction because it builds on strengths and abilities readily used by most teachers.
  • critical questions—Questions that an instructor should pose that will lead to discourse on learning and help the learner identify goals.


RAFT (role/audience/format/topic)—An after-reading activity in which learners demonstrate understanding by writing for a specific audience.

RAP (read/ask/paraphrase)—A mnemonic strategy that supports reading and comprehension. For example, read a paragraph or passage. Ask yourself, "What is the topic?" "What is the most important thing it tells me about that topic?" "What are the most important details?" Then paraphrase, or put it in your own words.

reading response—A writer’s thoughts and feelings after reading a text, done in class or as homework, frequently written in a journal. It may include but is not limited to an analysis of the text.

readings—Texts that are assigned to a class by an instructor to facilitate discussion and writing by the class.

reciprocal teaching—Learners take turns being the teacher for a pair or a small group. The teacher role may be to clarify, ask questions, ask for predictions, and other related tasks.

reflection—A metacognitive activity. A learner pauses to think about and organize information gathered from reading, discussions, or other activities. It is an exploration of an idea, a text, a topic, a writing process, or one’s general state of mind that is frequently written in a journal or in freewriting.

reflective essay—An essay of a personal nature in which writers use their subjective opinions, observations, thoughts, feelings, and experiences to support a thesis. (See also informal essay, narrative, and personal narrative.)

reflective writing—Writing that uses reflection—or careful consideration and serious contemplation of past events—as a means of idea development. Good reflective writing contains considerable analysis and insight.

reportSee writing genres.

research—A gathering of outside materials, usually texts, that provide writers with information on their topic and support for their thesis.

researched argument—An essay that proposes an argument and supports it with evidence obtained during research.

resolution—The portion of a play or a story in which the problem is resolved. It comes after the climax and falling action and is intended to bring the story to a satisfying end.

response cards—A teacher asks a question, learners write brief answers on the cards, and then all learners hold up their cards. The teacher can scan the answers of all learners for understanding. Sometimes cards just have "yes" or "no" on them and can also be prepared by the teacher.

response journal—Learners record in a journal what they learned that day or strategies they learned or questions they have. They can share their ideas in class, with partners, and with the teacher.

response to intervention—A method of academic intervention designed to provide early, effective assistance to school-age children who are having difficulty learning. It includes frequent progress measurement and increasingly intensive research-based instructional interventions for children who continue to have difficulty.

revision—The process of looking again at a draft to ask, "Does this writing clearly say what I want it to say, and, if it does not, what changes do I need to make?" Revision is centered on audience and purpose, idea development, organization, structure, and language choice. It is not editing. (See also holistic revision.)

rote memory—This type of memorization is usually the most commonly required memory task for students in Grades K–12. It involves memorizing, and soon forgetting, facts that often are of little primary interest or emotional value to a student, such as a list of words. Having nothing to give these words context or relationship either to each other or to students’ lives, these facts are stored in remoter areas of the brain. These isolated bits of information are more difficult to locate and retrieve later because there are fewer nerve pathways leading to these remote storage systems in the brain.

rubric—An assessment tool or scoring guide used in performance assessment. It includes well-defined criteria describing the characteristics of learner performance at each of several points on a numerical scale. For example, a four-point scale for evaluating learner writing would describe the qualities and types of errors found in typical examples of writing at each of the four rubric points. Rubrics allow learners to know in advance exactly what is required of them for a specific grade or score.

  • scoring rubric—An evaluation tool that defines the criteria for assessment: what the criteria mean and how they are used.


scaffolding/scaffolded instruction—A process that involves the frequent use of connected questions and collaboratively constructed explanations to create a context for learning based on a learner’s prior knowledge. Broad terms refer to various methods of supporting learners as they learn; gradually, these supports are withdrawn as they become capable of independent performance of a task or a skill. Supports may include clues, clarifying questions, reminders, encouragement, or breaking the problem down into steps. This temporary support from a teacher enables learners to take on and understand new material and tasks that they are not quite ready to do independently. The teacher models, assists, or provides necessary information, building on what learners already know; this should eventually lead to independence. (See also guided instruction.)

screening—A process of collecting information through a variety of sources over time that would lead to the conclusion that an individual might be significantly at risk for a specific condition, such as a learning disability.

screening instrument—An initial test in a sequence of tests that is usually quickly administered. The results are used to determine whether further testing is necessary and may possibly guide the selection of other tests to be administered.

self-advocacy—The ability of individuals with learning disabilities to explain their disabilities effectively to others, request legal accommodations, act independently, and cope positively with the attitudes of others.

self-assessment—Learners reflect on their performance and assess themselves.

self-directed learning (SDL)—Learners take the initiative and the responsibility for selecting, managing, and assessing their own learning activities, which can be pursued at any time, in any place, through any means, and at any age. SDL involves initiating personal challenge activities and developing the personal qualities to pursue them successfully. Adult education teachers can emphasize skills, processes, and systems to help learners become self-directed.

self-monitoring strategies—Plans used to increase independence in academic, behavioral, self-help, and social areas. When used in reading, the ability to self-monitor the meaning of words enables learners to select and use strategies to improve comprehension.

self-regulation—The understanding learners have about how they learn, including the strategies used to accomplish tasks, and the process by which they oversee and monitor their use of strategies and make adjustments, as needed.

self-regulated strategy development (SRSD)—An empirically validated model for supporting learners as they compose text, by helping them develop relevant cognitive and self-regulation skills. It is a flexible instructional model that helps learners explicitly learn the same kinds of planning, drafting, and revising strategies used by highly skilled writers. SRSD integrates three areas: (1) six stages of explicit writing instruction across a variety of genres; (2) explicit instruction in self-regulation strategies, including goal setting, self-monitoring, and self-instruction; and (3) the development of positive learner attitudes about writing.

sentence-level revision—Revision that focuses on meaning and clarity at the sentence level, It includes but is not restricted to syntax, word choice, and mechanics. (See also mechanics and syntax.)

short story—A short piece of fiction that contains some but perhaps not all of the following elements: plot (conflict, crisis, climax, and resolution), setting, character development, theme, and point of view.

short-term memorySee working memory.

simplified materials—Texts that are specially written for classroom use but have the style and format of authentic materials. These texts for lower-level learners use controlled or limited vocabulary and simple sentence structure. (See also adapted materials and authentic materials.)

small-group discussion—The discussion of an assignment, an assigned text, or learner writing by groups of usually two to six learners. The groups then usually report back to the instructor and the entire class in a full class discussion.

social development theory—A theory based on Lev Vygotsky’s philosophy that learning occurs through social interactions. It emphasizes the importance of cooperative learning groups, motivation, the observation of models, and learner attitudes.

specific learning disability (SLD)—The official term used in federal legislation to refer to difficulty in certain areas of learning, rather than in all areas of learning. (See also learning disabilities.)

spiraling—Reusing or recycling vocabulary, grammar, or concepts throughout a text or a series of lessons.

stance—The attitude or the position an author has adopted; literally, how an author stands on the topic.

standards—Expectations that describe what learners should know and be able to do within a specific content area. It is the broadest of a family of terms referring to statements of expectations for learning, including benchmarks, content standards, and performance standards.

  • benchmarks—Descriptions of the set of skills learners need to develop and achieve to meet the more broadly stated content standards.
  • content standards—Broadly stated expectations of what learners should know and be able to do in particular subjects and grade levels. They define the knowledge, skills, processes, and other understandings that guide curriculum for learners to attain high levels of competency in various subjects, and they reflect what stakeholders of educational systems recognize as essential to be taught and learned.
  • performance standards—Explicit definitions of what learners must do to demonstrate proficiency at a specific level on the content standards. For example, the performance level "exceptional achievement" on a dimension "communication of ideas" is reached when the learner examines the problem from several different positions and provides adequate evidence to support each position.

standards-based reform—A program of school improvement involving setting high standards for all learners and a process for adapting instruction and assessment to make sure all learners can achieve the standards.

standardized test—Any test that is administered and scored in a consistent, or standard, manner to all test takers. These tests are designed so that the questions, the conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner.

standardization—A consistent set of procedures for designing, administering, and scoring an assessment. The purpose of standardization is to assure that all learners are assessed under the same conditions so that their scores have the same meaning and are not influenced by differing conditions. Standardized procedures are very important when scores will be used to compare individuals or groups.

strategy instruction—Teaching learners tools for learning how and when to use strategies. The focus is on teaching learners how to learn effectively by applying principles, rules, or multistep processes to solve problems or accomplish learning tasks. Included in strategy instruction is the process of helping learners identify personally effective strategies and encouraging them to make strategic behaviors part of their learning schema.

student-centered learning—An instructional approach that focuses on the needs of students rather than the needs of teachers or administrators. Students might not only choose what to study but also how and why that topic might be an interesting one to study. This approach centers on student responsibility and activity, in contrast to more conventional teaching approaches in which the emphasis is on teacher control and the coverage of academic content.

students with disabilities (SWD)—A broadly defined group of students with physical and/or mental impairments, such as blindness or learning disabilities, that might make it more difficult for them to do well on assessments without accommodations or adaptations. (See also accommodations and adaptations.)

style—The quality of a text that is determined by genre, the appropriateness and tone of word choice, the writer’s audience awareness, and the individual imprint of personality that the text bears to readers. Style is often considered along with correctness, but style is distinct from correctness. (See also correctness.)

summary—Writing that presents the main points of a larger work in condensed form.

summarization—The restating of main ideas of a text in as few words as possible. Extensive research shows that summarization is among the top nine most effective teaching strategies in the history of education.

summarizing—The skill of abstracting and condensing essential features of a text.

summative assessmentSee assessment.

summary and response essay—An essay in which a writer summarizes an outside text and then provides his or her own thoughts, feelings, and associations stimulated by the text. This may include but is not limited to an analysis of the text. (See also text analysis.)

supporting sentences—Sentences about the idea presented in the topic sentence. They should support the main idea of the paragraph.

survey essay—An essay that uses data collected from a survey designed and implemented by the writer as the source for a small, social science research report.

syntax—Usually refers to acceptable and understandable word order in a sentence.


text—Usually refers to a cohesive unit of words that can be read and understood. The most commonly encountered texts are classified by genre, such as a poem, a short story, and an essay. More recently, it is also taken to mean any cohesive entity that can be understood through analysis. In this context, a text can be a painting, a photograph, an advertisement, a building, a human face, and other related entities.

text (or textual) analysis—The holistic understanding (reading) of a text by examining its particular characteristics. In the context of the academic essay, it presents an argument about a text by supporting the argument.

text structures—The organizational structures used within paragraphs or texts and appropriate to writing genre and purpose. Examples of text structures include description, sequential chronology, proposition/support, compare/contrast, problem/solution, cause/effect, and investigation.

theme—The central idea, message, concern, or purpose in a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly.

thesis—In an essay, a writer’s argument or focused observation that is supported by the body of the essay. A thesis can be supported by personal experience, outside research, or logical argument. It is also the controlling idea about a topic that a writer is attempting to prove. It is a sentence that announces the writer’s main, unifying, and controlling idea about a topic. A thesis statement usually contains two main elements: a limited subject (e.g., Internet), a strong verb, and the reason for it—the "why" (e.g., "The Internet provides information of varying depth and quality.").

thesis development—The process of choosing, focusing, and fine-tuning an argument that frequently employs processes such as brainstorming, freewriting, and discussion. (See also essay planning.)

think-aloud—A metacognitive strategy in which a teacher models his or her thinking, describing thoughts while reading aloud to the class or completing a task. By demonstrating metacognitive thought, a teacher explicitly gives learners a model of how the teacher’s thinking proceeded. Examples where think-alouds are helpful include demonstrating the steps in solving a math problem, reading a story aloud and stopping at points to think aloud about reading strategies, or crafting a response to an essay prompt.

think-pair-share—Learners think individually, pair (discuss with partner), and then share ideas with the class.

tic-tac-toe extension menu or choice board—A collection of activities from which a learner can choose. It is generally presented in the form of a 3-by-3 or a 5-by-5 grid, similar to a tic-tac-toe board, with the center square often allowing for learner choice. This format can be applied to extension activities, contracts, study guides, or independent studies. Such boards allow a teacher to differentiate content, process, and product according to different levels of learner performance and readiness, interests, and learning styles.

tiered assignments—Parallel tasks at varied levels of complexity, depth, and abstractness with various degrees of scaffolding, support, or direction. Learners work on different levels of activities, all with the same essential understanding or goal in mind. Tiered assignments accommodate mainly for differences in learner readiness and performance levels and allow learners to work toward a goal or objective at a level that builds on their prior knowledge and encourages continued growth.

tone—The overall feeling or effect created by a writer’s attitude, use of words, and sentence structure. It is an expression of the feelings of a writer toward a subject. Unlike mood, which is intended to shape the emotional response of the reader or listener, tone reflects the feelings of the writer or speaker. Pitch, rhythm, volume, and/or the choice of words all create the tone of a piece of writing.

topic—The general subject matter covered in a piece of writing.

topic sentence—Usually the first sentence of a paragraph that gives an idea of what the paragraph is about.

transition—A device commonly used to refer to the change from secondary school to postsecondary programs, work, and independent living typical of young adults. It is also used to describe other periods of major change, such as from early childhood to school or from more specialized to mainstreamed settings.

transitions—Connective devices in writing (words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs) that help tie ideas together, bridging sections of a text to make it seem more cohesive.

  • transitional words or expressions—Words or phrases often used to link sentences, subjects, or other parts of a written text. They are also used when speaking. Transitions include adding an idea (also, in addition, further, furthermore, moreover); contrasting (however, nevertheless); providing an alternative (instead, alternatively); showing similarity (similarly, likewise); showing order of time or order of ideas (first, then, next, later, meanwhile, previously, finally); showing result (as a result, consequently, therefore, thus, so); affirming (of course, in fact, certainly, obviously); giving examples (for example, for instance); explaining (in other words, that is); adding an aside (by the way, incidentally); and summarizing (in conclusion, above all).
  • transitional devices—Devices such as numbering, spacing, and ellipses to enhance meaning.


universal design for learning (UDL)—A framework for designing the educational environment so that it offers flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences. It is a key to helping all learners achieve. This environment is accomplished by simultaneously reducing or removing barriers from teaching methods and curriculum and providing rich supports for learning.

use and usageUse is how language is used in communication. Usage is the grammatical rules for language. For example, in the question "Have you ever eaten octopus?" use is to inquire about past experiences, while usage is a present perfect question with "ever" placed in front of the past participle. Although usage does have some part to play in adult education, use is more important. In meaningful communication, learners are more concerned with the use of language.


Venn diagramSee graphic organizers

visual discrimination—Assuming normal visual acuity, the ability to distinguish slight differences in stimuli, especially in letters and words, that have graphic similarities.

visual perception—The ability to recognize visual stimuli. Individuals with this learning disability may have problems with such activities as reading, writing, tracking, recognizing people or items, or reading a map or a graphic display.

vocabulary web—A graphic organizer based on a single vocabulary word. The word goes in the center circle. Learners then define the word; find synonyms and antonyms; write a sentence using the word; create analogies; and analyze the word according to word families, origin, stems, and parts of speech.

voice—The feature of writing that has unique personality and conveys a sense of sincere investment from the writer; a writer’s unique use of language that allows a reader to perceive a human personality in the writing. Elements of style that determine a writer’s voice include word choice, sentence structure, diction, and tone. The reader feels a strong sense of interaction with the writer. When learners choose their own topics, purposes, and audiences, their writing is more likely to have strong voice.


word attack skills—The ability to decode words using knowledge of the sound-letter correspondence of the language.

word decoding—A process used to identify words through sounding out letters, letter patterns, or blended sounds.

working folder—A collection of a learner’s work in which a learner can see evidence of growth in writing. It should include some dated samples that address a variety of writing tasks and allow learners and teachers to use past writing experiences as teaching tools for current and projected instruction. Most often, this folder contains all the drafts of a piece of writing. On a regular basis, learners should review and reflect on what has been placed in the folder to make decisions about what to keep for further development. The pieces in the working folder are springboards for the generation of possible portfolio entries.

working memory (short-term memory)—This memory can hold and manipulate information for use in the immediate future. Information is held in working memory for only about a minute. For example, looking up and repeating aloud a phone number long enough to place a call is using short-term memory; to place the number into long-term memory, one would need to make some association between the number and the person being called.

writing genres—Categories of written texts that have recognizable patterns, syntax, techniques, and/or conventions. (See also narrative and reflective essay.)

  • persuasive—Writing that aims to convince readers to accept a point of view, change their minds about something, or act in a certain way. A persuasive essay is a form of writing in which a writer supports an opinion and tries to persuade an audience.
  • procedure—Writing to explain a process or inform an audience of how to do something. A procedure piece presents the steps of the process in a clear, logical, easy-to-follow manner; it includes all the necessary steps; and it defines any terms the audience may not know.
  • report—Writing that results from gathering, investigating, and organizing facts and thoughts on a focused topic.

writing process—An approach to writing and teaching writing that includes developing ideas, writing a rough draft, revising, editing, and completing a final product.


zone of proximal development (ZPD)—Lev Vygotsky’s "zone of readiness," including the actions or topics a learner is ready to learn. It refers to the gap between a learner’s current and potential levels of development. This is the set of knowledge that the learner does not yet understand but has the ability to learn with guidance.