English Glossary A - K

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

The purpose of this glossary is to give a shared language to discuss indicators of progress and teaching strategies in the English continuum. A more extensive glossary can be found at the VCAA site

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action models
Action models involve the reader in doing the action and using real objects to demonstrate the meaning of the text. For example, students role model a conversation in a text, demonstrating empathy.

active voice
The voice is active when the subject of the sentence is the doer of the action. For example, The boy (subject) threw the ball. I (subject) wrote that sentence.

An adjective is a word that modifies a noun. It describes the quality, state or action that a noun refers to.

An adverb is a word that modifies the meaning of a verb, adjective or another adverb. Most adverbs in English are formed by adding –ly to an adjective. 

The agent is the person or entity that performs the action described by the verb; they may initiate a process or put something in operation. For example, ‘our cat’ is the agent in both of these sentences:

  • Our cat killed the neighbour’s budgerigar.
  • The neighbour’s budgerigar was killed by our cat.

In some sentences, however, the agent isn’t mentioned at all, even though we know that the process must have been initiated by someone or something:

The car was stolen. (Someone stole the car).

Alliteration is the repetition of the same or similar consonant sounds in words that are close to one another. For example, fine feathered friends; Sally sells sea shells…

An analogy involves an illustration of an idea by means of a more familiar idea that is similar or parallel to it in some significant respect, and thus said to be analogous to it. For Example, Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage.”

Analogy with known words

Readers can use what they know about some words to read and/or comprehend novel or unfamiliar words, for example, a student who has not seen the written word ‘plain’ before but who can read ‘train’ can identify the shared letter cluster ‘ain’ and the sound associated with ‘ain’ in ‘train’ to read ‘plain’.

analogy tables (parallel diagrams)
Analogy tables encourage the reader to define new vocabulary and recognise familiar analogous structures or events. For example:

Picture of worm body part

Description of structure/function

Picture of human equivalent


The gizzard grinds up the leaf into smaller and smaller pieces. It is like sandpaper.


An antonym is a word that has the opposite meaning of another word. Examples: happy/sad; small/large.


Refer to consonant blend.


Characterisation describes how the personality (strengths and weaknesses) of a character is represented in a text and how the personal characteristics (behaviour/actions) gradually evolve.

Cohesion refers to the ways in which the elements of a sentence or a set of sentences are linked, by using either grammar or linking words. Cohesion refers to the flow of a text and can be achieved by using pronouns, words such as that, these, those (deictic words) and other (contrastive forms). The tone, style and meaning is maintained throughout. For example, I sat down and turned on the radio. Just then, I heard a strange noise. The phrase 'just then' relates these events in time.

An informal expression; the language of everyday speech.

complex agreement
Complex agreement occurs in a sentence consisting of at least two coordinate independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses. For example, I wanted to go, but I decided not to when it started raining.

compound sentence
A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator /conjunction. Conjunctions include: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. For example, John played football so Jane went shopping.

concepts of print
Concepts of print refer to the reader’s understanding or knowledge of the conventions used to read and write text. It is an awareness of how print works, letters forming words. It includes recognition that print in English starts from left and moves to right, return sweep and that words are organised into sentences.

conceptually dense or extended texts
Conceptually dense texts are those that, for a particular reader, have a comparatively high number of concepts or technical language.

concrete models
Concrete models employ real objects or real life situations to demonstrate the meaning of a text. They involve something that exists physically being used as a way of enhancing understanding of an idea that may be abstract.

A conjunction is a word like and, but, when, or etc which connects words, phrases or clauses.

consonant blend/consonant cluster
Blends are consonant letter clusters (a group of consonants with no vowels between them) that occur commonly in words. They comprise two or three consonants blended together in sound while retaining the sounds of the individual letters. For example: ‘bl’ in black, ‘cr’ in credit, ‘spr’ in spring, ‘st' in fast, ‘nd’ in land.

The context of a text is the particular situation, background, or environment to which the text (or part of the text) is related, for example, a social, cultural, and historical setting, or genre. It can also be used to refer more specifically to the speaker or writer of text, its audience, or the situation in which the text was generated or interpreted.

contextual cues
Information from the context of a message.

count noun
Count nouns refer to things which can be counted. That means that there can be more than one of them. Example: I saw a pear tree (‘pear tree’ is a count noun because pear trees can be counted) Noncount nouns refer to those things that can’t be counted. Example: I jumped into the water. Other examples include ‘milk’ and ‘courage.’)

Also, when a count noun is singular and indefinite, the article "a/an" is often used with it. (The real meaning of "a" is "one").

creative visualisation
Creative visualisation involves representing information using visual symbols or icons in an open-ended way.

cueing strategies (speaking and listening)
Cueing strategies encourage consideration of ideas in particular ways. For example, while a student prepares for a speech s/he can look at the issue/event/character/idea from a different perspective or imagine they themselves are in another setting.


Decoding refers to using knowledge of spelling conventions and pronunciation of irregular words to decipher pronunciation of written words.

A digraph is composed of two or more letters that represent or match one sound. Example: sh, ch, th, ph, wh, ck.

A dipthong is a gliding monosyllabic speech sound that starts at or near the articulatory position for one vowel and moves to or toward the position of another. Example: ay in play or ou in out.

Disposition refers to the points of view both readers and writers have which influence their comprehension and creation of texts. The point of view in each case is the perspective or ‘position’ on a topic or issue taken by readers or writers. Readers can identify an author's purpose and viewpoint. The assumption here is that what is written is not necessarily reflections of reality but is a selective version of it, told from a particular view and this can position readers to respond to a text in particular ways through the use of language and point of view.


electronic media texts
These texts include spoken, print, graphic and electronic communications with a public audience. They often involve numerous people in their construction and are usually shaped by the technology used in their production. The media texts studied in English are found in newspapers, magazines and on television, video, film, radio, computer software and the Internet.

ellipsis (Pl. ellipses)
Ellipsis refers to (i) the part of a grammatical unit that is left out of a phrase because it is believed to be unnecessary or redundant. An example is in the answer to the question “Did you see him do it?” and the response is “Yes I did” instead of “Yes I did see him do it.” The “him” is implied and therefore elliptic. (ii) The 3 dots … placed within a phrase to indicate something has been omitted.

evaluative comprehension
Evaluative comprehension occurs when readers judge the content of a text by comparing it with:

(i) External criteria - where it agrees with what is generally known or expected
(ii) Personal criteria - how it fits with what individual readers know and what they value.

experiential knowledge
Experiential knowledge includes the following: prior knowledge and experience, visual imagery knowledge, action/ motor knowledge and knowledge of symbols.

expository text
An expository text sets out to describe objects, events or processes in an objective manner, present or convey an argument, to state the solution to a problem or to explain a situation.


factual text
A factual text contains information that is indisputable, proven (in a scientific context) or generally regarded to be true.

figurative language
Figurative language is a way of expressing ideas in non-literal or ‘plain’ form. It can be used to add colour or intensity to a description. For example, metaphors, similes and personification.

Fluency describes the act of reading without hesitancy, by recognising words and accurately connecting text.

formal language
Formal language includes the use of the ‘high’/prestigious dialect of a language. It involves the avoidance of informal/colloquial expressions. Example: using ‘good evening’ instead of ‘hi’ in a particular situation. 

functional meanings of words
Functional meaning of words refers to what words do or are used for. This is also referred to as structural meaning and involves how the words and sentences of a language are related to one another.


Genre is a style, especially in the arts, that involves a particular set of characteristics. Example: What genre does that book fall into – comedy or tragedy?

Grammar refers to the structure of a language. It is the rules or conventions we use to link words to form meaningful phrases and sentences.

grammatical function
Grammatical function refers to the place each word has in a sentence.  Example: in the sentence ‘The dog was eating its meat’ the noun ‘the dog’ has the function of being the subject. The function of a word is its grammatical context.

A grapheme is the technical term for a letter, for example, A, a.

graphical organisers
Graphic organisers are diagrams that organise thinking in different ways to assist with understanding and display of content.

Graphophonic cueing connects the sound of letters or words to the shape of letters or words. Students recognise that b in bet is the same sound as b in ‘brown’.


high frequency words
High frequency words are commonly found words in written or oral texts. These are mostly function words (or structure words) such as conjunctions, pronouns and prepositions.

homophone / homonym
A homophone is a word with the same sound as another but with a different meaning. For example, some and sum, scale (of a fish) and scale to climb. The term homonym is often used interchangeably. A homograph is a word with the same spelling. Homonyms may be used to refer to either.

Hyperbole is deliberate exaggeration or overstatement. For example, I'm so hungry I could eat a horse.


An idiom is a speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the original meaning of its elements. Generally, it is not intended to be taken literally eg ‘He was all thumbs.’

Imagery refers to the set of pictures readers make in their minds of what they are reading as they read. The imagery contributes to readers’ interpretation of the text.

imaginative texts
Imaginative texts refer to texts that have a topic or theme that is not located in literal reality. Example: types of fiction, folktales and fairy tales and poetry.

imperative form
The imperative form of a verb is used to make requests, give directions or instructions, and give orders or commands. Example: ‘Open the window!

indicator of progress
Indicators of progress are points on a learning continuum. They describe the critical understandings required by students to progress through the VELS standards.

To infer is to think beyond the information given in a text and make links with ‘unstated’ ideas or information. Readers may often use prior knowledge of the text or the world to infer subsequent events, purpose, intent or cause–effect.

inferential comprehension
Inferential comprehension questions ask readers to infer about events that occur earlier than the context of the text, the cause and effect of events within the text, possible changes to circumstances (what would happen if?), the targeted audience of a text, information about characters and main ideas underlying a text.

interpretive texts
Interpretive texts are an explanation by individuals of the texts of others.

informal language (colloquial)
Informal or colloquial language refers to the use of the ‘low’/spontaneous language, often used in familiar speech environments.

intonation patterns
Intonation patterns are the changes in rhythm and melody heard when someone speaks. Speakers change their intonation patterns by changing how loudly they say words or their pace in speech. Intonation patterns can convey grammatical functions. Example: a rising intonation to signal a question. In conversation intonation also plays an important role in maintaining the turn-taking system.

Irony is a form of speech in which the real meaning is concealed or contradicted by the words used. Irony involves the perception that things are not what they are said to be or what they seem. One may say something but in fact intend the opposite to be true. Example: ‘Great weather’ in response to an invitation to a picnic on a rainy day.