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Accuracy refers to the ability to produce grammatically correct sentences that are comprehensible.

Entry link: Accuracy

Achievement Assessments

Assessment instruments or procedures based on the objectives of a course, used to determine how much of the course content students have learned.

Entry link: Achievement Assessments


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.

Entry link: Acquisition


Things that you hope will be done or achieved during an activity or lesson.

Entry link: Aims

Analytic Rubrics

A common and valid method of assessing second language writing or speaking. They can be very useful for grading and providing focused feedback.

Entry link: Analytic Rubrics


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.
Entry link: Approach


English language has both indefinite (a/an) and one definite (the) articles. Articles are one of the first parts of speech introduced to learners, but one of the last to be acquired. The evidence suggests that articles cannot be taught, but are acquired over a long period of time.

Entry link: Articles


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.

Entry link: Assimilation


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.

Entry link: Association

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.

Entry link: Asynchronous Online Learning

Audiolingual Method

A language-learning method characterized by memorization of dialogues, as well as use of language labs. Students are drilled through dialogues in an effort to instill language forms. Audiolingualism is based on behaviorism. In this model, error correction is essential to prevent bad habits.
Entry link: Audiolingual Method

Aural/Auditory Learner

Learner who benefits more from hearing input. Aural/auditory learners respond well to oral instruction as opposed to visual instruction.
Entry link: Aural/Auditory Learner

Authentic Materials

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.

Entry link: Authentic  Materials


Blended Learning

An approach that combines both traditional classroom teaching and online educational tools to create a hybrid or “blended” learning experience.

Entry link: Blended Learning


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.

Entry link: Bottom-up

Bound Morpheme

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.

Entry link: Bound Morpheme



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.

Entry link: CALL


Short repetitive songs or rhythms that can be implemented to introduce or reinforce lesson material for second language students. Educators can use chants in small or whole group activities to help EFL learners become comfortable with the process of language acquisition.

Entry link: Chants

Class Contract

Documentation used to negotiate with your students on the rules for the classroom and the consequences for violating them.

Entry link: Class Contract


A group of words that always contains a subject and a verb in combination.

Entry link: Clause

Close Exercise

A gap-fill exercise with regularly-spaced gaps (e.g., every sixth word has been deleted).
Entry link: Close Exercise


Communicative Language Teaching. CLT is a teaching approach that emphasizes interaction between students or between student(s) and teacher(s). The approach emphasizes use of authentic real-world communication for meaningful purposes.
Entry link: CLT


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.

Entry link: CMC


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”.

Entry link: Cognate


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.
Entry link: Collocations

Communicative Approach

A set of principles about teaching where the focus is on meaningful communication not structure.
Entry link: Communicative Approach

Communicative Competence

Understanding and using language effectively (e.g., the student listens actively, initiates conversation, and maintains speech with peers) in an authentic school or social situation.

Entry link: Communicative Competence

Communicative Output

Output-based tasks (e.g., role play activities or paragraph-writing tasks) in a lesson that requires the use of target language.

Entry link: Communicative Output

Community Language Learning

A teaching approach focusing on student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships to establish a healthy language learning environment.

Entry link: Community Language Learning

Comprehensible Input

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.
Entry link: Comprehensible Input


The inflection and various spellings of verbs. Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, or voice.
Entry link: Conjugation

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.

Entry link: Content-Based Instruction (CBI)

Cooperative Learning

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 strengthened.

Entry link: Cooperative Learning

Corrective Feedback

Feedback highlighting (and possibly correcting) student errors in speech, such as mispronunciations or grammatical errors.

Entry link: Corrective Feedback

Course Goals

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.

Entry link: Course Goals

Cultural Dimensions

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.

Entry link: Cultural Dimensions

Culture Shock

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.

Entry link: Culture Shock


Deep Culture

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.

Entry link: Deep Culture

Delayed Feedback

Feedback provided after the fact, once a student has finished speaking. It allows a teacher to provide constructive comments without interrupting student speech.

Entry link: Delayed Feedback

Diagnostic Assessment

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.

Entry link: Diagnostic Assessment


A teaching approach in which different instructional methods and techniques are implemented based on the individual needs of learners.

Entry link: Differentiation


A phoneme (sound) containing two vowel sounds, one gliding into the second one.

Entry link: Diphthong

Direct Method

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.
Entry link: Direct Method

Discourse Markers

A 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.

Entry link: Discourse Markers


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.
Entry link: Drama


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.

Entry link: Drill



English for Academic Purposes. An EAP program aims to teach English language skills as well as help students develop necessary academic study skills for a future in an academic program.
Entry link: EAP


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).

Entry link: EFL


A technique that involves drawing language from students rather than giving it to them.

Entry link: Eliciting


A term used in the field of linguistics that refers to the natural omission or “skipping” of sounds in fluent spoken language.
Entry link: Elision


English Language Learner.

Entry link: ELL


English Language Teaching.
Entry link: ELT


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.
Entry link: Empathy

Error Correction

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.
Entry link: 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).
Entry link: ESL


English for Speakers of Other Languages. This term is similar to ESL, but it has been argued that many students learn English as a third or fourth language and not necessarily as a second language, so ESL is not really accurate; therefore, some programs prefer to use the term ESOL.
Entry link: ESOL


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).
Entry link: ESP

Experiential Learning

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.

Entry link: Experiential Learning

Extensive Listening

Listening for holistic ideas such as gist, context, speaker’s function, purpose, and attitude.
Entry link: Extensive Listening

Extensive Reading

Reading for pleasure outside of the classroom, usually with texts that are below a student’s current level.

Entry link: Extensive Reading


False Friend

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.”

Entry link: False Friend


Fluency is the ability to produce rapid, flowing, natural speech, without concern for grammatical correctness.

Entry link: Fluency

Free Morpheme

A morpheme that can stand on its own and have meaning.

Entry link: Free Morpheme


Grammar Translation Method

This method was used a long time ago in the teaching of Latin. The method focuses on translating grammatical forms and learning rules. Its focus is on accuracy and not fluency.
Entry link: Grammar Translation Method

Grammatical Form

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”).

Entry link: Grammatical Form

Grammatical Meaning

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.

Entry link: Grammatical Meaning

Grammatical Use

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.”

Entry link: Grammatical Use

Graphic Organizers

Classroom visual aids including tables, Venn diagrams, charts, timelines, and any graphic representation of a relationship between a set of ideas.

Entry link: Graphic Organizers


Holistic scoring

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.
Entry link: Holistic scoring



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.”
Entry link: Idiom

Immediate Feedback

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.

Entry link: Immediate Feedback

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. 

Entry link: Indo-European Language Family

Inflectional Morpheme

A morpheme added to a word without changing the word’s part of speech.

Entry link: Inflectional Morpheme

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.
Entry link: Information Gap Activity

Intensive Reading

Reading for details, such as vocabulary, main idea, inferences, and author’s tone and purpose.

Entry link: Intensive Reading

Intesive Listening

Listening with a specific purpose in mind (i.e., listening for details and selective information).
Entry link: Intesive Listening


The musical patterns of speech, either raising (e.g., in yes/no questions) or falling (e.g., in statements and wh-questions).

Entry link: Intonation

Intrinsic Motivation

Motivation in learning that comes from within.
Entry link: Intrinsic Motivation


International Phonetic Alphabet. A Latin-alphabet based system of phonetic notation devised to help standardize representation of the sounds of spoken language.

Entry link: IPA



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.
Entry link: Jigsaw


A learning log where ESL students have the opportunity to record material learned in the classroom and write about feelings concerning their new language experiences. Teachers have a chance to closely observe the journal for academic progress and second language acquisition.
Entry link: Journals



Family language, or mother tongue.
Entry link: L1


Second language, or a language that is not the mother.
Entry link: L2

Language Item

The smallest parts of a language, such as a new vocabulary word.
Entry link: Language Item

Language Skills

There are four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Listening and reading are receptive skills, while speaking and writing are productive skills.

Entry link: Language Skills

Learning Strategies

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.
Entry link: Learning Strategies

Learning Styles

Term used to indicate individual student preferences for learning.
Entry link: Learning Styles

Lexical Item

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 bus stop).

Entry link: Lexical Item

Lexical Set

A set of words that are connected in some way, usually by type (e.g., different items of clothing, vocabulary describing the weather, etc.).

Entry link: Lexical Set


Another word for “vocabulary.”

Entry link: Lexis

Lingua Franca

A language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a first language.

Entry link: Lingua Franca


Limit Teacher Talking Time. The idea that students should be more active in a lesson and do more of the talking.

Entry link: LTTT



Mobile-Assisted Language Learning. Includes the use of mobile devices such as cellular mobile phones, tablets, etc. that are used for educational purposes.

Entry link: MALL


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 language acquisition.

Entry link: Manipulatives

Meaningful Input

Lesson input (usually a reading text or listening passage) that includes target language within a meaningful context.

Entry link: Meaningful Input


The language used to describe language items (e.g., grammar terminology) or used in class to give instructions or explanations.

Entry link: Metalanguage


How a language is taught. A method is made up of a set of techniques that reflect a certain philosophy of language teaching.
Entry link: Method

Minimal Pairs

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).

Entry link: Minimal Pairs


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.

Entry link: Modeling


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.
Entry link: Morphemes


The study of word structure, root words, new word creation, word changes, and morphemes that go into building words. 

Entry link: Morphology

Multisensory Activities

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.
Entry link: Multisensory Activities


Needs Analysis

Using questionnaires and interviews to find out what students need or want to study.

Entry link: Needs Analysis

Non-verbal Communication

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.

Entry link: Non-verbal Communication



Things that you hope will be done or achieved by the end of an activity or a lesson.

Entry link: Objective


Passive Voice

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.

Entry link: Passive Voice


Project-Based Learning. A teaching approach that consists of using projects – usually research projects – to further learning in the classroom.

Entry link: PBL


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”).
Entry link: Phoneme


The study of phonemes (sounds), intonation, word stress, sentence stress, rhythm, and connected speech.
Entry link: Phonology

Phrasal Verb

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                                                                                                                                             
Entry link: Phrasal Verb

Placement Tests

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.
Entry link: Placement Tests

Positive Feedback

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.

Entry link: Positive Feedback


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).
Entry link: PPP


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.
Entry link: Practice


Understanding when language is appropriate to use according to the context or situation surrounding it, which is often a question of formality.

Entry link: Pragmatics


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.”).

Entry link: Prefix


A stage in a lesson during which the teacher gives or presents new language – new vocabulary or a new grammar structure – to the students.
Entry link: Presentation


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.
Entry link: Production



A teacher’s relationship or connection with their students based on learners’ positive feelings for their teacher.

Entry link: Rapport


Any objects used in the classroom that bring the class to life (i.e., relate classroom teaching to the real world).
Entry link: Realia

Realistic Materials

Materials that have been developed with the second language learner specifically in mind; they generally accompany ESL/EFL texts or are produced by the teacher for specific students.

Entry link: Realistic Materials

Receptive Skills

When the learner is receiving incoming language (listening or reading).
Entry link: Receptive Skills


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.
Entry link: Reductions


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).
Entry link: Register


The combination of stressed and unstressed parts of a sentence.

Entry link: Rhythm

Role Play

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.

Entry link: Role Play


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.
Entry link: Routine


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.


Entry link: Rubrics



Looking for or listening for specific bits of information to answer a query.
Entry link: Scanning


A theory stating that a student brings in his or her own knowledge and experiences when trying to read or listen to a text/selection.

Entry link: Schema


Schwa /ǝ/ is the smallest English vowel sound. It is the most frequent vowel sound in continuous (connected) speech, yet it never carries stress.

Entry link: Schwa

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”)
Entry link: Second Language Acquisition (SLA)


Individual phonemes (i.e., sounds) of vowels and consonants.

Entry link: Segmentals


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.
Entry link: Self-Assessment


The meaning of language, such as a word’s common synonyms, definition(s), and metaphorical meanings. 

Entry link: Semantics

Silent Way

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.

Entry link: Silent Way


A top-down activity where a learner quickly reads some material to find the gist.
Entry link: Skimming


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.
Entry link: Songs


One distinct part of a lesson, commonly a single activity.

Entry link: Stage


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.

Entry link: Streaming


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 de-stressed.

Entry link: Stress


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.
Entry link: STT


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.
Entry link: Student-Centered


A bound morpheme attached to the end of a word that often changes the word’s part of speech, and sometimes its meaning, but (in the case of inflectional morphemes) can also simply change nouns to plural or indicate a change in verb tense.

Entry link: Suffix


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.

Entry link: Suggestopedia


Speech features such as stress, rhythm, intonation, pitch, linking, pausing, and thought groups. Whereas segmentals refer to individual sounds, suprasegmentals extend past this and refer to things such as a string of sounds, syllables, words, phrases or sentence level sound features.  
Entry link: Suprasegmentals

Surface Culture

People’s behaviors, actions, and practices, such as language, manners, customs, food, music, clothing, art, literature, and body language.

Entry link: Surface Culture

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.

Entry link: Synchronous Online Learning


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.).

Entry link: Syntax



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.

Entry link: Task

Task-Based Learning

Teaching/learning a language by using language to accomplish open-ended tasks. Learners are given an objective to accomplish but are left with some freedom in determining how to complete the objective.
Entry link: Task-Based Learning

Teacher Observation

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.
Entry link: Teacher Observation


Methods, activities, and techniques where the teacher decides what and how something is to be learned.
Entry link: Teacher-Centered


A specific tactic used to carry out a chosen teaching method.

Entry link: Technique


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.
Entry link: TEFL


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.
Entry link: TESL


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.
Entry link: TESOL


Test of English as a Foreign Language. An English proficiency test for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities.
Entry link: TOEFL


Language learning that starts with an understanding of language before proceeding to break down complex concepts into the most basic parts of language.
Entry link: Top-Down


Total Physical Response. A teaching technique whereby a learner responds to language input with body motions: “Stand up,” “Sit down,” “Put the pen on the table.” This technique was devised by James Asher.
Entry link: TPR


Total Physical Response Storytelling. Similar to TPR, TPRS is a technique that gives opportunity for comprehensible input in the classroom by using body motions and gestures. Through storytelling, TPRS provides more context than TPR and also allows for grammar to be taught on a limited scale. 

Entry link: TPRS


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.
Entry link: TTT



The grammatical explanation of some part of language.

Entry link: Usage


Visual Aids

Low- or high-tech materials used to supplement written or spoken elements in lessons. Low-tech visual aids include materials like word walls, magazine cut-outs, realia, and graphic organizers. High-tech visual aids include materials like video, blogs, wikis, and video chat.

Entry link: Visual Aids

Visual Learners

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.
Entry link: Visual Learners


A 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.

Entry link: Voicing



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.

Entry link: Warm-up


Writings posted online can also allow multiple users to add content and edit the work. Wikis can help facilitate collaborative writing and group projects.

Entry link: Wikis

Word Stem

The free morpheme that serves as the main part of a word; also called word root.
Entry link: Word Stem

Word Stress

The emphasized syllable in a word.
Entry link: Word Stress

Word Wall

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.

Entry link: Word Wall

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