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Essential Literacy Terms for Effective Learning

Essential Literacy Terms for Effective Learning

Definition of Academic Vocabulary

The Alphabetic Principle is the system of linking sounds and letters. The ability to connect the sound to its letter provides a student with skills to read words and comprehend their leading content (Foorman et al., 2016). Students should first understand the individual sounds in a word to be able to read it correctly.

A syllable is a unit of a spoken language that forms part of a word or an entire word. It comprises a single vowel sound and the surrounding consonant sounds. For instance, the word cat has one syllable: ‘cat,’ while butter has two syllables: ‘but’ and ‘ter.’ Educators should model how to segment and blend syllables in words. For instance, a teacher can give the students manipulatives and guide them on how to represent each syllable with a manipulative, which helps them count the number of syllables in each word.

Phonological awareness involves a series of steps a learner incorporates towards phonemes awareness. It begins by identifying the sound in rhymes, blending and segmenting sentences, syllables, and onset-rime (The Brain Recovery Project, 2018).

Alliteration is the occurrence of the same sound in the beginning of closely connected words (The Brain Recovery Project, 2018). For instance, “she sells seashells at the seashore.” Teachers should pronounce the words correctly to avoid confusion that may lead to wrong word recognition.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to blend and segment individual sounds in words. Teachers should teach students to isolate and manipulate individual phonemes to understand how words are created or broken. Elkonin sound boxes effectively help students isolate sounds in a word (Foorman et al., 2016). Educators should start with two- or three-phoneme words for students’ ease of understanding.

Phonemes are individual sounds that appear in an altered word. Different unique and individual sounds are combined to form spoken words. English has 26 letters but around 44 phonemes (The Brain Recovery Project, 2018). Learners need to recognize the sounds in a word to understand the term. For instance, the word van has three phonemes: /v/ /a/ /n/.

Onset-Rime: An onset is the initial consonant of a word. For instance, the word cool /c/ is the onset. While the rime consists of the vowel and other phonemes that follow the first sound. /ool/ is the rime in the word cool (Foorman et al., 2016). The teachers should help students identify and manipulate onset and rime in one-syllable words, whether they recognize the first phoneme as the onset and the remaining phonemes as the rime.

Rhyme are words that end with the same sounds. For instance, the spoon rhymes with the moon. Educators should give a group of words for students to identify the odd one based on whether the words have the same end sound. For example, noon, moon, spoon, and cool. Cool is the odd one.

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Skills

An educator with effective phonological and phonemic skills helps guide and teach students how to recognize and manipulate the segments of sounds in words. The educator can identify the students’ challenges, segmenting or isolating phonemes in a word, which helps them incorporate differentiated teaching methods to ensure all students achieve the anticipated skills. A teacher can give students manipulatives to represent each phoneme in a word. For example, the word ‘box’ would be represented with three manipulatives since it has three phonemes: /b/ /o/ /x/. Effective phonemic awareness abilities assist teachers in modeling and demonstrating how letters represent phonemes. Students with effective phonemic awareness skills can identify all phonemes in a word, enabling them to manipulate and replace suggested phonemes to get a different word. An example of phoneme manipulation is replacing ‘b’ in the word ‘box’ with a ‘p’ to get /p/ /o/ /x/.

Spoken and Written Language

Spoken language and written words complement each other through the road to learning to read words and comprehend specific text. The spoken language comprises the awareness of words, syllables, onset-rime, and phonemes, while written language involves awareness of print, letter knowledge, and spelling recognition, which helps a student chunk with words, leading to automatic word recognition (Honig et al., 2008).

Concepts of Print

The “concept of print” involves the alphabetic principle, engaging the alignment of sounds and letters to help in reading words and understanding comprehension. Students should recognize that spoken words can be presented in writing to help them learn effective skills in book handling. Educators should inform learners that a combination of words makes a sentence. The teacher should give students different structured sentences to count the number of words making a given sentence. The teacher should read each word at a time in the sentence to help the students understand the beginning and end of each word and sentence in the print material, such as a book. The teacher should also demonstrate the directionality of reading by guiding the students to read the text from left to right and top to bottom of any page. Also, the student read from the first page to the last. The teacher should help students connect print and pictures in a storybook. Also, students should be aware of all alphabetic letters and how they reform to understand the letters and sounds making each word.

Language-Rich Environment

                 The teacher should encourage language development by engaging the students in read-aloud activities, which build their interest in reading. Read-aloud activities encourage word pronunciation. Moreover, teachers should engage in meaningful conversations with their students to enhance their oral language development. The teacher should also adjust their intonation to improve understanding so that students can recognize when questions are posted for them to give relevant responses. Educators should cultivate an interactive learning environment where students participate in the learning activities, which promotes student’s willingness and interest in reading. Also, the students should be allowed to brainstorm on the problems to enhance their cognitive development through the “think aloud” model.


Foorman, B., Beyler, N., Borradaile, K., Coyne, M., Denton, C. A., Dimino, J., … & Wissel, S. (2016). Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. Educator’s Practice Guide. NCEE 2016-4008. What Works Clearinghouse.

Honig, B., Diamond, L., Gutlohn, L., Fertig, B., Daniel, H., Zemelman, S., & Steineke, N. (2008). Teaching reading sourcebook (Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 1). Arena Press; 2nd edition (April 15, 2008).

The Brain Recovery Project. (2018). Understanding the big five for the early or struggling readers. The Brain Recovery Project, 1-9.


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Essential Literacy Terms for Effective Learning

Essential Literacy Terms for Effective Learning

Definitions of the following academic language/vocabulary (& the characteristics, elements, components, and/or skills associated with each):

  • The Alphabetic Principle
  • Syllables
  • Phonological awareness
  • Alliteration
  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonemes
  • Onset-Rime
  • Rhyme

Understand phonological & phonemic awareness skills & be able to identify behaviors/examples of; as well as, the best strategies for teaching each:

  • Phoneme segmentation/isolation
  • Phonemes are represented by letters
  • Auditory discrimination skills
  • Phoneme manipulation

Understand the relationship between “spoken language” and “written language.”

Understand the characteristics of “concepts of print” & be able to identify behaviors/examples of “concepts of print” or “awareness of print;” as well as, the best strategies for teaching each:

  • Print carries meaning – speech can be represented by writing
  • Book-handling skills
  • Number of words within a sentence
  • Beginning & ending of a word, sentence, & storybook
  • Directionality of reading (top to bottom, left to right, front to back)
  • Distinction from print to pictures
  • Letter recognition
  • Letter Formation

Understand the characteristics of a Language-Rich environment, including:

  • The purpose of activating prior knowledge and building schema is to facilitate students’ comprehension during reading-alouds.
  • Promoting the students’ love of reading
  • Promoting oral language development through meaningful conversations
  • Modeling & “thinking aloud” of metacognitive strategies
  • Use appropriate & expressive intonation & voices when reading aloud

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