ITA Online - Glossary
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Accuracy refers to the ability to produce grammatically correct sentences that are comprehensible.
Assessment instruments or procedures based on the objectives of a course, used to determine how much of the course content students have learned.
Picking up a language through meaningful conversation the way children pick up languages. Acquisition will occur when a learner is exposed to meaningful, comprehensible input.
Things that you hope will be done or achieved during an activity or lesson.
A common and valid method of assessing second language writing or speaking. They can be very useful for grading and providing focused feedback.
A set of principles about teaching including views on method, syllabus, and a philosophy of language and learning. Approaches have theoretical backing with practical applications.
A natural process in connected speech whereby sounds (i.e. phonemes) change or blend together based on the preceding or following sound. This change is made naturally by native speakers to facilitate pronunciation.
Connecting ideas and concepts together as they relate
to certain experiences. Association can help students remember new vocabulary
by connecting new words to words with similar meanings or by helping students
make their own personal connections.
Asynchronous Online Learning
Online lessons that
do not require students to be online at any particular time. These classes are
often pre-developed courses consisting of content or modules that students work
through without the real-time assistance of an instructor.
Learner who benefits more from hearing input. Aural/auditory learners respond well to oral instruction as opposed to visual instruction.
Resources that are used in English-speaking countries by native speakers. These are real-world selections produced for a native English-speaking audience, without consideration for the second language learner. Examples include newspapers, books, brochures, leaflets, menus, tickets, bank cards, library cards, etc.
An approach that
combines both traditional classroom teaching and online educational tools to
create a hybrid or “blended” learning experience.
Language learning that proceeds from the most basic parts of language, such as words, then advances to more complex structures such as complex sentences and grammar, before finally arriving at an understanding of meaning.
A morpheme that cannot stand on its own, but must be attached to another morpheme; the prefixes “un-“ and “re-“ are examples of bound morphemes.
Computer-Assisted Language Learning. Includes
use of computer-based language programs such as ESL-specific software,
educational podcasts, web pages, and CD-ROMs for educational purposes.
Documentation used to negotiate
with your students on the rules for the classroom and the consequences for
A group of words that always contains a subject
and a verb in combination.
A gap-fill exercise with regularly-spaced gaps (e.g., every sixth word has been deleted).
Computer-Mediated Communication. Refers to using computer technology,
such as web chat programs or web conferencing tools (e.g., Zoom, Skype), to
communicate with others.
A word having the same derivation in two languages and that is similar in both languages, not only in meaning, but also in spelling and pronunciation; “information” is a cognate of the Spanish word “información”.
Words that tend to be associated with each other, or co-occur in sentences, such as salt and pepper, up and down, wedding vows, etc. Collocates are important in EFL because they help to explain why some learner language is grammatically correct and the meaning is apparent, yet the utterance seems strange and not something natives usually say.
A set of principles about teaching where the focus is on meaningful communication not structure.
Understanding and using language effectively
(e.g., the student listens actively, initiates
conversation, and maintains speech with peers) in an authentic school or
Output-based tasks (e.g., role play activities
or paragraph-writing tasks) in a lesson that requires the use of target
Community Language Learning
A teaching approach focusing on
student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships to establish a healthy
language learning environment.
A hypothesis that learners will acquire language best when the material is comprehensible to them. The input should be accessible so that they can understand it, but it should be just beyond their level of competence. Input will lead to acquisition so long as the input is challenging, yet easy enough to understand without conscious effort at learning. If the learner is at level i, then input should come at level i+1. I+1 means that material is comprehensible with a few new forms for students to naturally acquire.
The inflection and various spellings of verbs. Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, or voice.
Content-Based Instruction (CBI)
A teaching method that focuses on content or
contexts in which students would use English instead of solely focusing on
grammar. A topic or theme is chosen and all language aspects are taught through
that topic or theme.
When students work in small groups toward social
and academic learning goals. Small mixed groups allow ESL students to feel at
ease while learning English. Peers in the group support the new language
learners as they discuss the lesson material in English. The group atmosphere
provides a non-threatening environment for students and self-confidence is
(and possibly correcting) student errors in speech, such as mispronunciations
or grammatical errors.
Larger course aims for an extended period of
time as opposed to learning objectives, which usually state what a student will
be able to do at the end of a lesson. Course goals are often stated in terms of
broad course content and tasks, or what a student will do over the length of a course.
Categories reflecting attitudes in different
cultures that can be viewed on scales such as equality vs. hierarchy, direct vs.
indirect, individual vs. group, and task vs. relationship.
A series of stages (honeymoon, culture-shock,
adjustment, reverse culture shock) experienced by a person who is immersed in a
foreign culture. The length of each stage varies from person to person and
depends on previous travel experience, openness to new cultures, and
willingness to adjust.
People’s attitudes, beliefs, and core values that
constitute the main part of our cultural differences. Some examples include our
attitudes toward gender, social status, age, raising children, perception of time, role of family, etc.
Feedback provided after the fact, once a student
has finished speaking. It allows a teacher to provide constructive comments without
interrupting student speech.
An assessment instrument or procedure that attempts to diagnose, or identify, a learner’s strengths and weaknesses, typically so that an efficient and appropriate course of instruction can be presented.
A teaching approach in which different
instructional methods and techniques are implemented based on the individual
needs of learners.
A phoneme (sound) containing two vowel sounds, one gliding into the second one.
A method of language learning associated with Francois Gouin and Charles Berlitz. Second language learning should model first language learning in that it should be learned directly; grammar is taught inductively with no explanations, the learner’s first language is not used in the class, and new vocabulary is introduced by demonstration. One of many highly idiosyncratic methods that were developed in the 1970’s.
class of spoken or written language that connects speech or written text
together. In spoken language, for example, words such as “so” and “well” might
be used to connect ideas or shift the conversation. In written language, the
transition words “however” or “on the other hand” are used to show contrast.
Both the spoken and written examples function to connect or show a relationship
between past and future language.
A method to introduce role play activities involving all students in the classroom in order to enhance language acquisition for ESL students. Stories can be acted out to reinforce comprehension skills and language skills, and learners absorb the rhythm and meanings of words in the new language. A fun way to learn without as many inhibitions.
An activity in which students repeat the same
(or slightly changed) words, phrases, or sentences after the teacher in order
to memorize the newly introduced language.
English as a Foreign Language. A program for
students learning English in their native country where English is not spoken (e.g.,
Korean students learning English in South Korea, or Polish students learning
English in Poland).
A technique that involves drawing language from
students rather than giving it to them.
A term used in the field of linguistics that refers to the natural omission or “skipping” of sounds in fluent spoken language.
English Language Learner.
English Language Teaching.
Although the educator may not be familiar with the ESL student’s culture or language, a strong attempt must be made to validate the student’s first language. It is very important that the teacher of an ESL learner empathize with the student’s position. The instructor should try to imagine what the ESL student is experiencing after being immersed in a new culture and new language for the first time.
An important issue for ESL teachers is when and how to correct the errors of language learners. Some researchers feel there is no need to correct errors at all, as errors will automatically correct over time. However, some researchers think that error correction is necessary in order to “get it right from the beginning” as opposed to in the end. Different classroom theories propose different solutions for error correction.
English as a Second Language. A program for students from other countries who are learning English in an English-speaking country (e.g., Korean students learning English in the U.S., or Polish students learning English in England).
English for Specific Purposes. This term refers to the vocabulary and English skills that students learn when they need to use English for only a specific purpose (e.g., in business contexts, BE/BFE, or at university, EAP).
A process of learning that encourages students
to learn by doing and then reflect on that learning. Realia and authentic
materials encourage experiential learning, as do activities like scavenger
hunts, case studies, and role plays.
Listening for holistic ideas such as gist, context, speaker’s function, purpose, and attitude.
Reading for pleasure outside of the classroom,
usually with texts that are below a student’s current level.
A word that appears to be a cognate of a word in
another language but is not; the Spanish word “embarazada” means pregnant and is, therefore, a false friend of the
English word “embarrassed.”
Fluency is the ability to produce rapid, flowing, natural speech, without concern for grammatical correctness.
A morpheme that can stand on its own and have meaning.
Grammar Translation Method
The written or spoken pattern of the grammatical
structure. For example, the form of the present continuous is subject + am/is/are + verb-ing (“Anna is singing”).
The semantic meaning of a grammar structure. For
example, the sentence “Anna is singing” includes the present continuous, which
communicates that the action started before now and is occurring at the present moment.
The pragmatic use of a grammatical structure.
For example, one common use of present continuous is the description of a
photograph or drawing: “In this picture, the kids are playing a game of soccer.
It is raining.”
Classroom visual aids including tables, Venn
diagrams, charts, timelines, and any graphic representation of a relationship
between a set of ideas.
A scoring procedure typically used in writing assessment in which the reader reacts to the student’s composition as a whole. A single score is awarded to the writing.
A group of words that, via usage, has established a special meaning apart from the individual words within; the idiom “let the cat out of the bag” has nothing to do with feline animals being released from captivity, but rather means “to reveal a secret.”
Feedback provided at the moment something is
uttered by a student, which has the benefit of directing student attention to
an utterance right after it is spoken.
Indo-European Language Family
A language family of mostly European languages
that consists of 10 main branches. English derives from one of the main
branches, the Germanic branch.
A morpheme added to a word without changing the word’s part of speech.
Information Gap Activity
An activity in which one student knows something that the other doesn’t. Usually, students work in pairs and are given two worksheets with some information missing in worksheet A but present on worksheet B, and vice versa. Such gaps of information between learners give them a need and desire to communicate with each other.
Reading for details, such as vocabulary, main
idea, inferences, and author’s tone and purpose.
Listening with a specific purpose in mind (i.e., listening for details and selective information).
The musical patterns of speech, either raising
(e.g., in yes/no questions) or falling (e.g., in statements and wh-questions).
Motivation in learning that comes from within.
International Phonetic Alphabet. A
Latin-alphabet based system of phonetic notation
devised to help standardize representation of the sounds of spoken language.
A classroom activity involving different groups of students reading or listening to different content. When they join together as a group, they report back and compare what they have learned in order to fully understand each part of the activity.
Family language, or mother tongue.
Second language, or a language that is not the mother.
The smallest parts of a language, such as a new vocabulary word.
There are four language skills: listening,
speaking, reading, and writing. Listening and reading are receptive skills,
while speaking and writing are productive skills.
Individual tasks or activities that help learners to foster independent learning or to engage in independent learning. There are direct strategies for managing language, and indirect strategies for learning in general.
Term used to indicate individual student preferences for learning.
A word, a phrase, or a number of words that can
be considered to be a single item of vocabulary (e.g., bus, bus stop, school
A set of words that are connected in some way,
usually by type (e.g., different items of clothing, vocabulary describing the weather,
Another word for “vocabulary.”
A language systematically used to make
communication possible between people not sharing a first language.
Limit Teacher Talking Time. The idea that students should be more active in a lesson and do more of the talking.
Mobile-Assisted Language Learning. Includes the
use of mobile devices such as cellular mobile phones, tablets, etc. that are
used for educational purposes.
Concrete objects used to demonstrate learning
concepts. The use of manipulatives appeals to ESL students’ senses in order to
enhance the meaning of the presented information. Students have the opportunity
to hear, see, and touch manipulatives to promote the learning process and
Lesson input (usually a reading text or
listening passage) that includes target language within a meaningful context.
The language used to describe language items
(e.g., grammar terminology) or used in class to give instructions or explanations.
How a language is taught. A method is made up of a set of techniques that reflect a certain philosophy of language teaching.
Two words that contain all the same phonemes
(sounds) except for one (e.g., sheep and ship, or rice and
lice). Minimal pairs are useful for practicing discriminating between
two difficult phonemes (sounds).
An ESL teacher demonstrates the learning
activity as the students watch. After showing the students what to do, the
teacher repeats the demonstration as learners follow along. Soon the students
are capable of performing the task without hesitation. This type of modeling by
a teacher helps ESL students become comfortable with classroom activities and
helps them to know what is expected on assignments.
The smallest meaningful unit in the grammar of a language that cannot be further divided. For instance, unhappy has two morphemes, “un” which means not and “happy” which means joyful. Both of these two morphemes carry meaning and cannot be further divided.
The study of word structure, root words, new
word creation, word changes, and morphemes that go into building words.
Planned lesson activities that tap into more than one of the senses. Learning can be enhanced through hands-on activities that give ESL learners an opportunity to absorb information through their senses. There is a Chinese saying that describes the benefits of this: “Tell me, I forget; show me, I remember; involve me, I understand.” ESL students need to be totally involved in their learning.
Using questionnaires and interviews to find out what
students need or want to study.
A type of communication including body language: gestures, eye movement, posture,
appearance, facial expressions, body contact, etc. Nonverbal communication can
vary from culture to culture.
Things that you hope will be done or achieved by
the end of an activity or a lesson.
A sentence where the subject is receiving the action. This is contrasted with the active voice, where the subject is doing the action. To form the passive voice you use the verb “to be” plus the past participle.
The Merchant of Venice was written by Shakespeare.
A man was taken to the police station.
Project-Based Learning. A teaching approach that
consists of using projects – usually research projects – to further learning in
The smallest sound that can make a difference in meaning. For example, the word sheep has five letters but only three phonemes (“sh,” “ee,” and “p”).
Two- or three-part verbs, usually with prepositions, that take on a different meaning than their separate parts suggest. Some examples include:to go out with = to date / to bring up = to raise a topic in conversation / to look after = to watch
An assessment instrument or procedure used to determine a student’s language skills relative to the levels of a particular program he or she is about to enter.
Praise for correct or well-spoken utterances or
speech, something that can be motivating for learners. Positive feedback is
more effective when it is more specific and might include something like
highlighting correct grammar or improvement in pronunciation.
Presentation, Practice, Production. A method or model to teaching and lesson planning based on the idea of giving (presenting) small items of language to students, providing them with opportunities to use it in controlled ways (practice), and finally integrating it with other known language in order to communicate (production).
A stage in a lesson during which students and the teacher (or teaching materials, such as a reading text) use the presented language in controlled and monitored activities. During this stage students get additional practice forming sentences with the new language structure. For example, students complete a text with new words or students answer teacher’s questions using a new structure.
Understanding when language is appropriate to
use according to the context or situation surrounding it, which is often a
question of formality.
A bound morpheme placed at the beginning of a
word that alters the meaning of the word or root it is attached to (e.g., the
prefix “un” in unmoved means “not.”).
A stage in a lesson during which the teacher gives or presents new language – new vocabulary or a new grammar structure – to the students.
A stage in a lesson during which students use the newly introduced and practiced language in an open-ended structure in their own speech or writing. For example, students write a story with the new words and phrases.
A teacher’s relationship or connection with their
students based on learners’ positive feelings for their teacher.
Any objects used in the classroom that bring the class to life (i.e., relate classroom teaching to the real world).
When the learner is receiving incoming language (listening or reading).
The term used for shortened forms of spoken words. For example, native speakers are likely to pronounce “could have” as “coulda” and “going” to as “gonna” in regular speech.
The style or type of language used within a particular context. For example, ESL/EFL students must learn to distinguish language that is used in formal registers (e.g., job interview of business email) versus language that is used in informal registers (e.g., relaxed situations or communication with friends).
The combination of stressed and unstressed parts
of a sentence.
An activity during which students imagine
themselves in a situation outside the classroom (e.g., in a restaurant), and
play the role of someone else (e.g., a waitress), and use language appropriate
to this new context. The situation, characters, and problem (task) may be
written on role play cards by the teacher to encourage more creative scenarios
and better language production.
Establishing classroom routines that allow ESL students to become familiar with what happens in the classroom every day. The repetitive tasks help second language learners to become comfortable in a safe classroom environment. Self-confidence will be gained if these students know the order in which activities occur daily.
Measuring scales that reveal to students what is expected of them on particular assessments. Rubrics list the academic work involved and state the criteria expected for an exemplary score and the criteria for lower scores on assignments.
Looking for or listening for specific bits of information to answer a query.
A theory stating that a student brings in his or
her own knowledge and experiences when trying to read or listen to a
Schwa /ǝ/ is the smallest English vowel sound.
It is the most frequent vowel sound in continuous (connected) speech, yet it
never carries stress.
Second Language Acquisition (SLA)
When ESL students are capable of internalizing the new (second) language and communicating effectively. The educator needs to implement modifications in classroom instruction until the second language learner has mastered English. Speaking English for simple communication will happen in the early acquisition stages; however, complete language acquisition takes at least five to seven years. (see “Acquisition”)
Individual phonemes (i.e., sounds) of vowels and
Procedures by which learners evaluate their own language skills and/or knowledge, allowing ESL students to assess their own work and observe their progress. For example, a self-assessment form may be used to record students’ thoughts and feelings about the presented work. Students are given the responsibility to assess themselves and actively be a part of their academic success.
The meaning of language,
such as a word’s common synonyms, definition(s), and metaphorical meanings.
A designer method whereby the teacher remains mostly silent in order to encourage students to solve their own problems. Originated by Caleb Gattegno in the 1970’s, this method was meant to foster learning through discovery. Students were given Cuisenaire rods and used these colored rods to figure out the patterns of language based on a few examples given by the teacher.
A top-down activity where a learner quickly reads some material to find the gist.
A variety of songs can be implemented in classroom activities to introduce or reinforce content-area material. The rhythms and the repetitive words sung in songs enhance the comprehension of the presented learning concepts for ESL students. ESL students tend to remember information through classroom song activities.
One distinct part of a lesson, commonly a single
A grouping strategy that involves putting
students together according to their language ability, either mixing strong and
weak students, or grouping them at the same level.
The syllables in words that are longer, louder,
and higher-pitched. At the word level, stress
falls on syllables. At the sentence level, stress falls on content words
(e.g., nouns, verbs, adjectives, and sometimes adverbs) while function words
(e.g., pronouns, determiners, prepositions, and auxiliary verbs) are
Student Talking Time. The amount of time that students get to talk within a lesson. In a student-centered classroom, STT should be increased, while TTT – Teacher Talking Time – should be decreased.
Language activities, techniques, and methods in which learners are the focus and the teacher plays only a peripheral role. Students are allowed some control over activities and some input into the curriculum. These activities encourage student creativity and autonomous learning. Group work is one kind of student-centered activity.
A humanistic teaching method where instructors
strive to create an environment conducive to learning by utilizing tools such
as relaxing wall colors, background music, and artwork.
People’s behaviors, actions, and practices, such as language, manners, customs, food, music, clothing, art, literature, and body language.
Synchronous Online Learning
Classes that take place entirely online and have
a component which requires the student and teacher to both be online at a
specified time. Synchronous courses can include phone conferencing, video
conferencing, or chat.
The study of how words function together to
create units like phrases, clauses or sentences. This includes word order, sentence formation,
question formation, and parts of speech (articles, nouns, verbs, etc.).
An activity where students are urged to solve
some problem using language. This activity is open-ended; there is no set way
to accomplish their goal.
Authentic assessment that involves observing the progress (or lack thereof) of language acquisition in the classroom. Notes are commonly taken by the teacher during observations to discuss what was seen and heard during classroom activities. This pertinent data can be presented during student or parent conferences.
Methods, activities, and techniques where the teacher decides what and how something is to be learned.
A specific tactic used to carry out a chosen
Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Typically geared toward learning the language for specific purposes such as business and is learned by students living in non-English-speaking countries.
Teaching English as a Second Language. Typically geared toward learning the language for everyday purposes and is learned by students living in English-speaking countries.
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Refers to the field of professionals who teach English in a country where English is the primary language.
Test of English as a Foreign Language. An English proficiency test for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities.
Language learning that starts with an understanding of language before proceeding to break down complex concepts into the most basic parts of language.
Teacher Talking Time. The amount of time a teacher spends talking to his or her students. In order for a student to learn better, the teacher should limit how much time they talk in order to allow students to increase their amount of Student Talking Time.
The grammatical explanation of some part of language.
Learners who benefit more from visual stimulation. Visual learners learn best when they see, as opposed to when they hear. The implication for ESL teaching is that visual stimulation accompanying lessons may have some benefit for some students.
sound feature produced by the vibration of the larynx (vocal cords). Sounds are
voiceless when vibration is absent. For example, If you have your
students touch their larynx at the same time as saying /z/ or /v/, they will
feel a vibration. On the other hand, if they say /s/ or /f/, no vibration will
be felt. All English vowels are voiced, but some consonants are voiced while
others are not.
An activity done at the beginning of a lesson in
order to greet students and engage them in the lesson. This might include
review of previously-learned material or activation of background knowledge and
schema for the current lesson.
Writings posted online can also allow multiple
users to add content and edit the work. Wikis can help facilitate collaborative
writing and group projects.
The free morpheme that serves as the main part of a word; also called word root.
The emphasized syllable in a word.
A low-tech classroom visual aid featuring key
vocabulary terms and possibly corresponding pictures for the current unit of
study. Categories of word walls include high-frequency words, literature-based
word walls, and content-area word walls.