6 + 1 Trait® Writing Instruction and Assessment

A framework for assessing, discussing, and organizing writing; writing traits include (1) idea/content, (2) organization, (3) voice, (4) word choice, (5) sentence fluency, (6) conventions, and (+1) presentation.


academic register

Refers to the characteristics of language that make it academic, such as specific vocabulary, traditional grammar, active voice, and use of sources to understand what others have written about the topic.

academic words

Words used across content areas (e.g., summarize, describe, analyze, synthesize, compare and contrast).

academic writing

Professional writing that uses a particular register, characterized by traditional grammar, active voice, and technical vocabulary; references to other writings on the same topic; synthesizing other authors’ thoughts; and expressing a personal perspective in the context of the work of others.


The vocal emphasis applied to a given syllable in a word for proper pronunciation.

achievement goal theory

Theory by Alderman and Green (2011) addressing the reasons individuals are motivated to succeed in achievement settings; tasks may have a mastery orientation or a performance orientation.

achievement test

Test that measures the current level of a student’s performance in a variety of subject areas.

acrostic poems

Poems formed by writing a single word or short phrase vertically and using its letters to start the horizontal lines of the poem.


Units that are added to root words to create new words; includes both prefixes and suffixes.

age leveling

The intended age for a given book; usually suggested by the publisher and listed on the cover.


Sentences or phrases that begin with same letter sound; for example, Silly Sally shines seashells.


The slight variances of each phoneme in different words due to the positioning of the mouth for the following vowel sound.

analytic phonics

An inductive approach to analyzing a word in which the whole word is read first. Then each letter sound is analyzed to determine the word’s pronunciation.

analytical learning style

These learners process information in logical, sequential steps; analytical readers may learn to read best when first presented with phonics and then proceed to whole text with decodable words.


Writing that clearly states a claim and presents evidence to support it—facts, statistics, or quotes from credible sources. In writing arguments, students must take audience and counter argument(s) into account.


In literacy, “the process of gathering data in order to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of student learning, as by observation, testing, interviews, etc.” (Harris & Hodges, 1995, p. 12).


Sentences or phrases that have repeated vowel sounds; for example, Aunt Bea flees when she sees bees.

authentic assessment

Assessment that measures literacy behavior as reflective of real-world situations; for example, measuring a student’s ability to comprehend the directions when constructing a model airplane.

automatic information processing theory

The idea, developed by LaBerge & Samuels (1974), that when young readers devote all their cognitive energy to decoding words, they have no energy for deeper, comprehensive reading.


A component of fluency; the “ability to engage and coordinate a number of complex subskills and strategies with little cognitive effort” (Allington, 2006).


The ability to recognize many words by sight and to quickly decode unfamiliar words.



The root of a word to which affixes are added.

basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS)

Refers to English learners’ ability to be fluent in personal conversation (Cummins, 1979).

best-work portfolio

A collection of items a student believes represents her best work, each accompanied by a self-assessment sheet explaining why.


A poem written by students in upper elementary grades who have studied famous inventors, explorers, or historical figures; follows a specific template defining the content of each of 11 lines.


Two or three consonants with closely related but separate sounds. Same as consonant cluster. Examples include /str/ and /gr/.


choral reading

The practice of students and teacher reading a text together so that students, particularly English learners, can hear the pronunciation and be actively involved in the reading process. As students gain experience, choral reading may be done without teacher accompaniment.


A five-line poem that follows a grammatical formula.

closed syllable

A syllable that ends with a consonant sound, such as the first syllable of but-ter.

cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP)

English learners’ ability to read and write at the academic level of their peers (Cummins, 1979).

compound word

Two words joined together to make a new word. The meaning may or may not vary from the definition of the words as separate entities, such as applesauce or butterfly.

comprehensive approach

A reading approach integrating skills with literature-based reading and process-writing instruction; typically involves use of authentic texts and authentic writing tasks (Routman, 2002).

consonant cluster

Two connecting consonants that make a unique sound that retains the sound of each letter, such as /br/ in brick or /fl/ in floor.

consonant digraph

Two connecting consonants with one sound, such as /ch/ in church or /f/ in phone.


The letters b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, w, x, y, z.

constrained skills

Fluency reading skills that are easy to master and quantitatively assess, such as writing one’s name, reciting the alphabet automatically, reading high frequency words.

criterion-referenced test

Instrument that allows teachers to compare a student’s performance to a predetermined goal and assess the degree to which the student has achieved mastery of that goal; these tests do not compare students to others with similar backgrounds.

critical literacy

A literacy theory with implications for action (Behrman, 2006); the goal is for students to develop literacy skills that will enable them to actively engage with text in order to understand the potential for abuse of power and other forms of inequality and injustice among races, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, and social systems and then engage in appropriate social action.

critical reading

The process by which students “use elements of logical analysis—that is, they examine claims of validity and reliability to better understand how these texts function in society” (Cervetti, Pardales, & Damico, 2001, p. 3).

cueing systems

Strategies used by readers to make sense of written text, including syntax clues, semantic clues, graphophonic clues, and pragmatic clues.



The process of identifying words by attaching appropriate sounds to corresponding letters or letter sequences.

deep reading

Repeated reading undertaken to develop prosody; that is, using one’s voice to convey meaning. Using prosody indicates that students have comprehended the text at an inferential level because they know which words to emphasize to reflect the text’s meaning.


The act of removing a sound from a word to create a new word; the sound can be either an initial or an ending sound.

derivational relations stage

The fifth stage of spelling development, in which students are now spelling most words correctly and can apply simple spelling rules.

derivational suffix

An affix at the end of the word that changes the word’s syntactic category and/or its meaning. An example is adding –er to teach to create teacher.

diagnostic test

Standardized test that helps determine a student’s strengths and weaknesses.


A seven-line poem that follows a formula and is written in the shape of a diamond, with the goal of helping students focus on parts of speech and antonyms.

differentiating instruction

Modifying lessons to fit a range of individual needs for diverse students.

differentiating instruction

The “fine art of connecting content and kids—of doing what it takes to adapt how we teach so what we teach takes hold in the lives and minds of students” (Tomlinson & Jarvis, 2006).

digital storytelling

A writing activity designed to motivate struggling writers to create dynamic stories by combining traditional story writing with new literacies, including video, digital music, apps, digital cameras, filmmaking software, and other technology.

dimensions of text complexity

Aspects of text assessed in order to determine its level and appropriateness. These include the quantitative dimension, the qualitative dimensions, and reader and task considerations.


Two connecting vowels that make a distinct sound that is unlike either of the two vowels; for example, /oi/ as in oil.

domain-specific words

Words usually learned when studying specific content area subjects through explicit instruction; also tier three words.


The second stage of the writing process, in which a first draft is composed.



The fourth writing stage, in which an author evaluates his or her work (or a peer editor does so) to catch errors and finalize the piece; editing checklists may include capitalization, punctuation, grammar, paragraphing, and spelling.

emergent stage

The first stage of spelling development, in which children make scribbles or letter-like shapes and begin to understand that, in English, writing moves from left to right.


The process of attaching appropriate letters to sounds when writing.

epistemic knowledge

Knowing what knowledge is important and where and how to locate it.

expository frames

A tool to help students understand expository structure by providing a systematic way to write about content material they have read.

expressive language art

Refers to writing, because it involves creating and conveying a message.

expressive vocabulary

The vocabulary, smaller than a receptive vocabulary, a person uses in speech and writing. The oral expressive vocabulary is typically larger than the written expressive vocabulary.


Interjecting a sense of feeling, anticipation, or characterization during oral reading.


Fibbin poem

A form of poem named after mathematician Fibonacci; it can be about any subject but conforms to a mathematical pattern or numerical sequence set by the teacher or class.


The ability to read with automatic word recognition, expression, and meaning; to read naturally and with comprehension.

formal assessment

A standardized test given under controlled conditions so that groups with similar backgrounds can be compared. Same as standardized test.

formative assessment

Assessment designed to allow teachers to form judgments “frequently in the flow of instruction” (Roskos & Neuman, 2012, p. 534) so they can provide ongoing feedback to help students improve.

frictive consonants

Letters and blends that cause friction in the mouth when pronounced; these include /f/, /v/, /th/, /z/, /s/, /zh/, and /sh/.


global learning style

These learners prefer to be presented with an overview of the information and then taught to analyze the parts; global readers tend to learn best if they first read text and then learn skills in the context of the passage.

grade equivalent score

The median raw score for a grade level on a standardized test.

grade leveling

A book leveling system according to grade; the formulas used to calculate grade levels are based on sentence length and the number of syllables in a sentence.

gradient leveling

A book leveling system; gradient-leveled books differ from grade-leveled books in that they reflect minute shifts in difficulty between the levels and thus have many more levels than grade leveled books.


The written representation of the phoneme; may be one letter or a cluster of letters.


The aspect of writing that refers to the knowledge about how to correctly form the letters of the alphabet and write legibly.

graphophonic cueing system

Refers to the letter–sound relationships used by readers to comprehend written text. Do they look right?

graphophonic system

The relationship between the letters and their sounds.

growth portfolio

Final copies of a student’s work along with his or her scoring rubrics.

guided reading

A technique in which a teacher helps a small group of students develop their reading skills by assisting them as they apply reading strategies such as context clues, word structure, and letter¬–sound relationships as they read through an appropriate leveled book.

guided writing

A method of writing instruction in which a teacher works with a small group of students who have the same writing needs; the teacher teaches the concept, demonstrates how to use it, guides students as they practice it, and expects students to use it in independent writing.



Words that are spelled the same but have different pronunciations and meanings in differing contexts; for example, minute, wind, and read.

high-frequency words

The most common words in the English language. “One hundred words account for almost half of all the words we read and write. Ten words—the, of, and, a, to, in, is, you, that, and it—account for almost one-quarter of all the words we read and write” (Cunningham, 2004, p. 54).


Words that have identical spellings but differ in meaning and sometimes pronunciation; for example, bass fish and a bass singer.


Words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings; for example, blew/blue and grate/great.


I + 1 theory

The idea that English learners acquire language when they interact with language that is one level above their current stage of competency (Krashen, 1981).


Using prior knowledge, judgments, conclusions, and reasoning drawn indirectly from available information to comprehend a text.

inflectional ending

A letter or letters at the end of a base word that changes its grammatical properties within its syntactic category. Examples are –s, -ed, and -ing.

informal assessment

Assessment administered by the teacher in the classroom, seeking information to guide their teaching; examples include running records, IRIs, rubrics, and interest and attitude surveys.

informal reading inventory (IRI)

An individual assessment given by a classroom teacher to measure reading comprehension and recall ability; generally includes a list of leveled words or sentences and a set of graded reading passages with accompanying questions.

informational literacy

The ability to find, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize information from multiple sources, including the Internet.

intelligence test

A test that measures a student’s scholastic aptitude.

interactive writing

Teacher and students share the pen. Teachers do most of the writing until they recognize that a student knows the initial letter or the spelling of the entire word; then the student writes the letter or word.






language experience approach (LEA)

A literacy method that uses students’ experiences as the basis for reading materials and views reading, writing, and the other language arts as interrelated. Specifically, the student dictates to the teacher her understanding of a topic, or a picture caption or story; the teacher transcribes the exact words the student says and reads it back to her with the goal of motivating the student to express her thoughts.

language experience approach (LEA)

An instructional strategy that can also be used for assessment, in which the teacher writes the text as the student dictates the “experience.” Then each time the student reads it back, the teacher informally assesses the correct pronunciation of words, the prosody, and fluency. The student may also note syntax errors that he made in the initial dictation.

language gestalts

Clusters of related words used as a unit of study.

learning style

An individual’s preferred means of processing new information; effective teachers determine all they can about students’ learning preferences in order to provide the environment most conducive to it.

letter name–alphabetic stage

The second stage of spelling development. Students are aware of the initial sounds of words, and at the early alphabetic stage often think there are always as many letters in a word as there are syllables.

Lexile leveling

A book leveling system; the Lexile scale ranges have been realigned with the CCSS, with bands adjusted upward so “that all students should be reading at the college and career readiness level by no later than the end of high school” (Finn, 2013, p. 1 of 3).

linguistic approach

A part-to-whole approach that emphasizes identifying patterns in words. Proponents of this approach believe it is easier for children to learn words when they focus on two distinctive parts of each word (the onset and rime) instead of on individual letter sounds.

literacy self-perception scale

An informal assessment providing a picture of how students feel about themselves as readers and writers.


manipulating sounds

The task of either substituting or deleting sounds, in the context of learning to decode words.

mastery orientation

In achievement goal theory, refers to a classroom where teachers foster an atmosphere where the goal is the joy of learning and not earning a high score; students compete only with themselves.

media literacy

The ability to read, create, manipulate, analyze, and evaluate messages conveyed through images, narration, text, and music in a variety of media modes.


The ability to explain what and how one knows.

miscue analysis

An assessment taxonomy designed to analyze “the degree to which unexpected responses or miscues change, disrupt, or enhance the meaning of a written text” (Goodman, Watson, & Burke, 1987, p. 5). The process records substitutions, mispronunciations, repetitions/insertions, and omissions.


Goodman’s (1969) term, preferable to error, that denotes a point in the reading process that varies from the expected response.


A type of miscue that indicates a reader may not understand a given word, although mispronunciations due to dialect are not considered miscues because they do not indicate a lack of understanding.


The smallest units of words, such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words.

morphemic structure

The notion that different parts of speech are formed from a single root word by adding affixes. For example: music, musician, musical.


The study of the smallest units of words, such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words.

multimodal communication

Evolving types or modes of communication using four basic literacies: technological literacy, visual literacy, media literacy, and informational literacy (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009).


nasal consonants

Consonants that require air to be forced through the nose to pronounce; these include /n/ and /m/.

new literacies

Forms of literacy resulting from emerging technologies and multiple modes of communication.

next generation assessment

CCSS-aligned assessment designed to go beyond the usual multiple-choice and short-answer questions to measure the full breadth and depth of knowledge and skills described in the standards.

nonsense words

Words that are made up, such as jabberwocky.

norm-referenced test

Assessment instrument that has been administered to large populations of students from various geographic locations and socioeconomic backgrounds in order to develop norms, or average scores, which become the “measuring stick” by which to gauge the performance of other students who take the test.



A type of miscue in which a reader drops words from a text, either inadvertently or because he or she does not know the word; frequently disrupts meaning.


Words that sound like their meanings; for example, crackle, pop.


The consonant or consonant blend at the beginning of the word.


The part of a word that precedes the vowel.


The part of the syllable that precedes the vowel.

open syllable

A syllable that ends in a vowel sound.

opinion pieces

Writing that expresses an opinion, for instance, about a book; typically required of younger students who cannot yet write and support arguments as required by the CCR Anchor Standards for writing.

oral reading test

Test that assesses a student’s rate, accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.

orthographic representation

A form of word knowledge, referring to the spelling of the word.


part-to-whole model

Reading model that emphasizes the importance of students first learning letter names and sounds, followed by simple words that are easily decoded, and then reading stories that consist of these easily decoded words.

percentile ranking

A score on a standardized test that compares a student to others the same age.

performance orientation

In achievement goal theory, refers to students focusing on performing tasks or engaging in behaviors that will earn the teacher’s approval.


The smallest unit of sound in spoken words that affects a word’s meaning (for example, /l/, /m/, /b/, /sh/, /ch/, and so on).

phonemic awareness

An understanding of the ways that sounds function in words; it focuses only on manipulating individual sounds (phonemes).

phonemic awareness

The understanding that spoken language consists of a sequence of phonemes.

phonetic stage

The third stage of spelling development, in which consonants and vowels are used for each spoken syllable.


The study of speech sounds and the way they are made.

phonics approach

Reading model that emphasizes learning the names of each letter of the alphabet and the various sounds associated with the letters (e.g., the short and long vowel sounds, the two sounds of c and g). Blends (cl, br, gr, etc.), vowel digraphs (oa as in road and ea as in sea), consonant digraphs (ck as in back and ch as in cheese), and diphthongs (oi as in oil, oy as in toy,) are also studied out of their linguistic context. In phonics programs, students learn phonic rules along with the exceptions to these rules.


The understanding that letters represent certain sound(s).


A rime following an onset.


The vowel and any letter that follows a word’s beginning consonant; for example, ot in hot. Words that share the same phonograms are often called word families. Same as phonogram.


The vowel and any letter that follows the beginning consonant (e.g., am in Sam). Words that share the same phonograms are often called word families.

phonological awareness

The ability to identify and manipulate various units of sound in speech, including syllables, onsets, and rhymes, as distinct from their meaning.

phonological representation

A form of word knowledge, referring to the pronunciation of the word.


A component of fluency, also called prosody; the grouping of words as revealed through the intonation, stress, and pauses exhibited by readers.

picture clues

Illustrations that work as context clues to help readers identify unknown words. plosive consonants Letter that produce a burst of air when pronounced. These include /b/, /p/, /d/, /t/, /k/, and /g/ as in garden.


A physical or electronic collection of a student’s work from the school year.

pragmatic cueing system

Refers to the situational context of a written passage used by readers to convey or reflect the social and cultural aspects of language.

precommunicative stage

Content goes here


A higher-level thinking skill that requires readers draw on background knowledge and use context and details to guess what will happen in a text, and then determine whether their predictions were correct. Good readers make predictions automatically, while struggling readers often make no attempt to predict what will happen next in the text.

prewriting stage

The first stage of either expository or narrative writing in which writers are instructed on how to choose a topic, how to research that topic, how to brainstorm possible subtopics, how to structure their material, and how to tailor their writing to their audience.


A persuasive technique that involves the distortion of facts or manipulation of readers.


A component of fluency, also called phrasing; the grouping of words as revealed through the intonation, stress, and pauses exhibited by readers.


The final stage of writing, in which a finished piece is shared with an audience beyond the writer. This may include classmates, parents, or more distant audiences such as viewers of a website.


qualitative dimensions of text complexity

An aspect of text assessment for literature and informational text considering “levels of meaning or purpose; structure; language conventionality and clarity; and knowledge demands” (NGACBP & CCSSO, Appendix A, 2010, p. 5).

quantitative dimension of text complexity

An aspect of text assessment using the Stretch Lexile Band reading scale with the goal of ensuring that graduating high school seniors are prepared to comprehend college text and other career materials; students in lower grades are working toward this goal.

quick write

A literacy strategy to develop writing fluency; students respond to a writing prompt d in two to ten minutes. Also called writing on demand.



In oral reading, words read per minute.

R-controlled vowel

When the letter r follows a vowel and alters the vowel sound. Examples include cart, burp, and port.

readability level

Refers to a student’s capacity to read and comprehend a certain percentage of words in a given text. Divided into independent reading level (a student comprehends 90 percent of a text); instructional reading level (a student comprehends 60 percent of a text); and frustration reading level (a student comprehends 50 percent of a text).

reading strategies

Strategies that help students read proficiently by themselves, including those used (1) before reading, which activate prior knowledge; (2) while reading, which improve comprehension and skills; and (3) after reading, which help readers analyze and remember what they read (Walker, 2004).

receptive language art

Refers to reading, because it involves receiving a message.

receptive vocabulary

The words students know and understand in conversation and while reading texts. Students’ receptive vocabulary is a result of their past experiences, conversations, and reading.


Refers to “linguistic features that are used in a particular situational context” (Scarella, 2003, p. 19).


The concept that a standardized test is valid on a consistent basis.


A type of miscue in which a reader adds words to a text while reading; frequently does not disrupt meaning.

response to intervention (RTI)

A framework for identifying students with learning disabilities and for providing instructional services with a multi-tiered system of support.

retrospective miscue analysis

Expands a miscue analysis by using a recording of the passage; goes beyond assessment to become a powerful instructional tool when the student listens for his errors and attempts to understand if the error disrupted the intended message.


The third stage of writing, in which the writer reviews the first draft and rewrites with the goal of uncovering weaknesses and improving the piece; revisions may take instructor and peer feedback into account.

rhetorical knowledge

A reader’s knowledge about story grammar, the structure of expository text, paragraphs, and so on, which is used as a context clue when encountering an unknown word.


Sound elements that consist of the same sound combination.


Words that end with the same sound but do not necessarily share the same ending letters (e.g., great/late or bear/care).


The vowel and any consonants that follow it in a syllable.


The vowel and any letter that follows a beginning consonant; for example, at in cat.


Words in a family that end with the same letters (for example, sit, hit, fit) and also rhyme because they have the same ending (fat, bat, sat).

running records

An informal oral reading assessment in which the teacher observes, scores, and interprets a student’s reading behaviors to determine which cueing systems—syntactic, semantic, or graphophonic—the student used when making errors.



Providing support to students, tailored to their needs, with the goal of enhancing their learning and allowing them to accomplish more difficult tasks than they could without assistance.


A reader’s background knowledge of the world, which can be used as a type of context clue when encountering an unknown word.


A vowel sound that is articulated with the tongue in a neutral position. Examples include /a/ in agree and /u/ in unload.

scientifically based research

According to the National Institute for Literacy (2006), scientific research must “employ systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment; involve rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions; rely on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers, and across multiple measurements and observation; and be accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparatively rigorous, objective, and scientific review” (p. 1).


The belief that one expects to reach his or her goals.


The ability of readers to assess whether what they are reading sounds right in regard to pronunciation and syntax, with the goal of enhancing comprehension and making sense of what they are reading.

semantic cueing system

Refers to the meaning of words and sentences used by readers to comprehend written text. Do they make sense?

semantic representation

A form of word knowledge, referring to the meaning(s) of a word in various contexts.


The symbolic aspects of language; the idea that words, made up of letters, represent objects, actions, and abstract ideas.

semiphonetic stage

An early stage of spelling development during which students begin to recognize the relationship between letters and sounds.

setting a purpose

An important aspect of reading comprehension; to identify the genre of a text and thereby determine the purpose for reading it.

shared reading

Process that begins with teachers reading a story with students. The initial emphasis is on enjoying the plot, characters, and language of the story, but during repeated readings, the learning experience broadens to include other aspects (e.g., rhyming words, word endings, new vocabulary, and mechanics).

sheltered instruction (SI)

A scaffolding approach to teaching content in a strategic manner so that concepts are comprehensible and English learners effectively develop English skills (Echevarria & Short, 2007).

short vowel

Vowel sounds that occur in words like hat, men, fit, and but.

sight vocabulary

Words a reader recognizes in half a second or less (Fry & Kress, 2006).

sight word approach

Reading method in which students are first taught the words that will appear in a story they are about to read (e.g., the once-popular Dick and Jane series); with this method, struggling readers spend much of their reading time memorizing flash cards.

sight words

Words immediately recognized as a whole unit, e.g., at, the, of, have.

sight words

Words that must be memorized because they do not conform to pronunciation rules. Examples include have, was, there.

silent letters

Letters that make no sound.

SIP (Spelling in Parts)

An instructional strategy, the goal of which is to help students listen for and identify syllables within words.


One’s ability to perform a task.

spelling inventory

Lists of words that progress from easy (with CVC and CVCe patterns) to more difficult (multisyllabic words) and that are intended as individual tests.

standard score

A type of standardized test score that incorporates standard deviations, thereby relating a test result to its distance from the average; allows a teacher to make comparisons between two dissimilar measures.

standardized test

A formal assessment given under controlled conditions so that groups with similar backgrounds can be compared. Same as formal assessment.

stanine score

A type of standardized test score that is similar to but more general than a percentile score. It incorporates a range between one and nine, with four through six representing an average score.


The plans or methods used to accomplish a task.


The act of replacing one sound for another sound in a word to create a different word.


A type of miscue in which a reader chooses a different word either because he or she does not know the correct word or because he or she confuses it with a similar term. Does not always indicate a lack of understanding.

summative assessment

Assessment given at the end of a designated time period and used to assess student growth and assign grades.

syllable and affixes stage

The fourth stage of spelling development, in which students begin to recognize syllables, prefixes, suffixes, and root words.


Combination of phonemes that creates a larger sound unit within a word. All syllables have a vowel sound.


Refers to the grammar of a sentence the reader relies upon for comprehension; does it sound right?

syntax cueing system

Refers to the grammar of a sentence the reader relies upon for comprehension; does it sound right?


The grammar of a sentence the reader relies upon for comprehension; does it sound right?

synthetic phonics

Stringing isolated letter sounds together to create words, without an understanding of onset, rime, word families, etc.


technical words

Words usually learned when studying specific content area subjects through explicit instruction; also tier three words.

technological literacy

The ability to read and manipulate digital resources, including computers, interactive whiteboards, tablets, e-readers, printers, scanners, MP3 players, video cameras, and other electronic devices.

theory of multiple intelligences

Howard Gardner’s theory stating that all humans possess a unique blend of nine modes of intelligence (musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and moral).

tier one words

Common words used in everyday conversation (e.g., house, car, run, sleep).

tier three words

Words usually learned when studying specific content area subjects through explicit instruction; referred to by CCSS as technical words or domain-specific words.

tier two words

Words that are used less frequently but are interesting (e.g., persuade, parched, exhausted), including academic words used across content areas. Tier two words should be explicitly taught and used so students begin to own them and use them in their conversations and written communications.

total physical response (TPR)

The practice in which students recite key vocabulary words, spell them, and act out their meaning so that they comprehend the difference between similar sounding words such as ship and skip.

transitional stage

The fourth stage of spelling development, in which the child is able to approximate the spelling of various words.


unconstrained reading skills

Fluency reading skills that are difficult to quantitatively assess because they continue to develop over one’s life span; examples include comprehension and vocabulary.



The concept that a standardized test measures what it claims to measure.

visual analysis

A word analysis skill; breaking syllables into smaller, known parts. Proficient readers look for parts they know.

visual literacy

The ability to read, interpret, and create images and icons, for example on tool bars, videos, photographs, graphs, charts, and maps.

visual symbols

Visual elements in a story that are used to represent something else; for example, the color red may represents anger and green may represent envy.

vowel digraph

Two vowels placed together, but only the long sound of one of the vowels is heard. Examples include /oa/ in road and /ai/ in jail.

vowel diphthong

Two vowels together in a word that produce a “single glided sound” (Reutzel & Cooter, 2011); when pronouncing a diphthong, the mouth changes positions as the sound is produced. Examples include /oi/ in oil and /ou/ in loud.


In the English alphabet, the letters a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y and w.


Web 2.0

term sometimes used to refer to sites and apps on which students can create, edit, manipulate, and collaborate online (Handsfield, Dean, & Cielocha, 2009).

whole word approach

Learning new words by memorizing the entire word.

whole-part-whole model

Reading model in which teachers begin reading instruction with shared reading or a shared book experience (Holdaway, 1986), as opposed to the part-to-whole method. Proponents of this model include K. Goodman (1996), Y. Goodman (1996), and Weaver (2002).

wide reading

“The common classroom practice of reading a text once followed by discussion, response, [and] instruction aimed at developing some specific reading strategies and skills” (Rasinski, 2012, pp. 517–518).

within word pattern stage

The third stage of spelling development, during which teachers help students discover patterns within words.

word families

Groups of words that share phonograms or have a common combination of letters in them and a similar sound. For example, bake, cake, rake, and lake are a family of words because they all contain the “ake” sound and letter combination.

word families

Words with the same rimes; for example, map, lap, sap are a word family.

word frequency

How “rare” a word is in comparison to all the words in a given word bank.

word recognition

The ability to identify words without conscious attention and without attending to every letter; involves using context and skills such as using parts of words to quickly identify new words.

working portfolio

A portfolio containing a student’s work-in-progress.

writing on demand

See quick write.

writing process

The totality of the stages of writing: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.

writing workshop

A method of writing instruction created by Lucy Calkins that includes six essential elements: (1) regular, sustained writing sessions; (2) giving students choices; (3) teacher and peer feedback; (4) an established structure; (5) a cooperative learning community; and (6) mini-lessons for direct, explicit instruction.






zone of proximal development

Vygotsky’s (1978) phrase to describe “the distance between the [child’s] actual development as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (p. 86).