Literacy glossary

This page includes definitions used in the Literacy Teaching Toolkit.


Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person

A person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as such and is accepted as such by his other community. This definition is accepted by most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Importantly it focuses on the social/community construction of Aboriginality. 


The process of reducing complexity to formulate generalised ideas or concepts, for example, reducing a computing problem to its fundamental concepts. 

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. 

adjectival phrase

An adjectival phrase consists of a group of words (two or more) to provide more information about the noun. Adjectival phrases begin with a preposition and come after the noun, e.g. The cat with the furry tail sat in the window. 


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

adjusting force

Evaluative language can be more or less forceful, that is, it can be softened or intensified, turned down or turned up. 

Some ways in which this can happen include: 

  • Grading of core vocabulary: for example ‘revolting’ instead of ‘awful’, ‘pounce’ instead of ‘jump’, ‘whisper’ instead of ‘say’
  • Intensifiers (adverbial graders): for example rather happy, very happy, completely happy, not even on Sunday, terrifically wise and grand, ‘She’d had quite a nice face’.
  • Repetition: ‘Mr Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.’
  • Exclamatives: Look out!


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. E.g. rapidly 

adverbial phrase

An adverbial phrase consists of a group of words (two or more, and generally beginning with a preposition) to provide information about the verb such as ‘how’, ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘when’ or ‘with whom’. 


Being able to make choices and decisions, to influence events and to have an impact on one’s world. The concept of agency applies from birth: children are active contributors to their own experiences, interactions, learning and development. 


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… 

alphabetic principle

The knowledge that oral language consists of sounds and sounds can be mapped to written letters. 


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’. 


The alignment of states of mind in moments of engagement, during which affect is communicated with facial expression, vocalisations, body gestures and eye contact 


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


There are three articles in English – a, an, and the, which are placed before nouns and form part of noun groups. The article ‘the’ is known as the definite article. It is used to refer to a specific person or thing, e.g. to a known person or thing, a person or thing previously mentioned who has already been introduced in a text, a specific class of thing or group, something unique such as the Opera House. The words ‘a and ‘an’ are known as indefinite articles. These refer to a non-specific person or thing, for example, ‘a doctor’ or ‘an elephant.’ ‘An’ is used before words beginning with a vowel sound.



The sounds babies make before they can say real words. Babble is formed by the string of sounds made as babies’ experiment with moving their lips and tongue. Over time the sounds that make up babble become more like real words in conversation. 

back-and-forth interactions

Interactions that are sustained and include multiple turns between a child and a caregiver/educator are referred to as back-and-forth interactions. 


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. 


A clause is a group of words that contains a verb or verb group. An independent clause can ‘stand on its own’ and expresses a complete thought. There are different kinds of clauses. The clause that is essential to any sentence is an independent (or main) clause. 

Compound and complex sentences contain more than one clause. 

A clause that provides additional information to the main clause but cannot stand alone is a dependent (or subordinate) clause. For example: 

  • 'When the sun goes down (dependent), I shall eat my dinner (main).'‘
  • My time is limited (main) because I am reading Shakespeare.’ (dependent)

An embedded clause occurs within the structure of another clause often as a qualifier to a noun group, for example: 

‘The man who came to dinner (embedded) is my brother.’


Cohesion refers to how 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 are maintained throughout. For example, I sat down and turned on the radio. Just then, I heard a strange noise. The phrase 'just then' relates to these events in time. 


An informal expression; the language of everyday speech. 

complex sentence

Complex sentences contain an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. A dependent clause cannot stand on its own; it is dependent on the main (or independent) clause for its meaning. The following is an example of a complex sentence in Alison Lester’s Are we there yet?  

‘When something slimy slithered past my leg, I screamed.’ 

DEPENDENT CLAUSE: When something slimy slithered past my leg

Dependent clauses can be connected to the main clause using a subordinating conjunction, for example, if, when, after, because, before.  

Dependent clauses can also include a non-finite verb (a verb without a subject or tense). For example:  

We stood in the shallows to see the dolphins.  

INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: We stood in the shallows
DEPENDENT CLAUSE: to see the dolphins.

Heading south on the Tanami Track, our car got bogged.  

DEPENDENT CLAUSE: Heading south on the Tanami Track
INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: our car got bogged.

compound terms

A compound term is a combination of whole words or word parts are fused to create a novel word. In digital technology, for example, compound terms are capitalised with no dash or space (e.g. DOUNTIL is a compound term of DO and UNTIL to indicate repeated action) 

compound sentence

Compound sentences contain two or more independent clauses joined by a co-ordinating conjunction (for example, and, but, so, or, not, yet, so). Each clause can ‘stand on its own’. The following is an example of a compound sentence in Alison Lester’s Are we there yet?  

‘We flew over the Bungle Bungles in a helicopter without any doors and my stomach turned inside out.’  

There are two independent clauses joined but the conjunction ‘and’: 

INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: We flew over the Bungle Bungles in a helicopter without any doors
INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: and my stomach turned inside out

Young writers often use compound sentences quite in the texts that they write, relying on ‘and’ to join the statements.  

compound-complex sentence

Compound-complex sentences include a combination of independent and dependent clauses which can be combined using co-ordinating and subordinating conjunctions. For example:  

As we travelled along the highway, we passed a number of houses and saw plenty of animals in paddocks.  

DEPENDENT CLAUSE: As we travelled along the highway
INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: we passed a number of houses
INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: and saw plenty of animals in paddocks.

computational thinking

A problem-solving method that involves various techniques and strategies in order to solve problems that can be implemented by digital systems, such as organising data logically, breaking down problems into components, and the design and use of algorithms, patterns and models. 

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 can be categorised into four main components; concept of book (e.g. cover of the book) concept of text (e.g. concept of a letter) directionality (e.g. left to right in a sentence) and mechanics (e.g. full stop or comma). It includes recognition that print in English starts from left and moves to right, return sweep and that words are organised into sentences. 


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"). 


Four classes of correspondence may be considered: 

  • One-to-one correspondence: A function between two sets where each element in one set (domain) corresponds to exactly one element in the other set (range) and vice versa. Thus, in a ballroom dancing class, there will be a one-to-one correspondence between male and female partners during a given dance.
  • Many-to-one correspondence: A function between two sets where each element in one set (domain) corresponds to exactly one element in the other set (range); however, an element in the range may be mapped onto by more than one element in the domain. For example, each student in a class has exactly one height measure (to the nearest centimetre) at a given instant (so the relation 'the height of' is a function) but it may be the case that two students are the same height.
  • One-to-many correspondence: A relation between two sets where each element in one set (domain) corresponds to many elements in the other set (range). An example of such correspondence could be in retail, where a shopper would have a unique customer ID but could have many purchases (given an order number). There would be many different order numbers which correspond to the same customer ID, and only one customer ID linked to each of these specific purchases. A one-to-many correspondence does not define a function. For example, a one-to-many function with two different y-values for one x-value (such as a circle) will fail the vertical line test to check if a relation is a function.
  • Many-to-many correspondence: A relation between two sets where each element in one set (domain) corresponds to many elements in the other set (range), and each element in the range corresponding to many elements in the domain. Examples of this type of correspondence are seen in databases. For example, business A might have many suppliers of goods, and each supplier could have many other clients (including, in this case, business A).

creative skills

Children’s capacities and competencies to use and develop their imagination in all areas of learning by exploring their ideas. The early childhood professional’s creative skills are also part of planning for arts learning (music, dance, drama, media and visual art). Children’s artistic skills and thinking are promoted by exploring, expressing, making and responding in the art forms. Creative skills are not only linked to the arts; they are important in all areas of the curriculum. 


A careful judgement in which opinions are given about the positive and negative aspects of something. Critiquing considers good as well as bad performances, the individual parts, relationships of the individual parts and the overall performance, whereas evaluations measure performance against established standards. 



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

deconstructing (Design Technologies)

A process of dismantling or pulling a product or system apart to identify and analyse components and their relationships systematically. 

design thinking

Purposeful use of strategies for understanding design problems and opportunities, visualising and generating creative and innovative ideas, and analysing and evaluating those ideas that best meet the criteria for success and planning. Designing stems from the notion that current products, processes, systems or services are either unsuitable for our needs or can be improved. 


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


A diphthong 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. 

disciplinary literacy

A model of literacy that acknowledges that literate practices and demands vary between curriculum areas or disciplines. 

dispositions for learning

Enduring habits of mind and actions, and tendencies to respond in characteristic ways to learning situations, for example, maintaining an optimistic outlook, being willing to persevere, approaching new experiences with confidence. 



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. 

embedded clauses

A subordinate or dependent clause that sits within a main or independent clause (e.g. The student who ran the fastest won the prize).


Encoding is the skill used to identify phonemes and match to graphemes in order to spell words. Early spellers draw on phonological and phonemic awareness knowledge by hearing and identifying the sound elements in a word and the sequence in which they occur. The process of decoding and encoding both supports early alphabetic learning.


Engagement is essential to an effective learning culture. Effective teachers develop high expectations of students, they motivate students using a variety of teaching strategies, help students to see the relevance in what they are learning, keep students on task, and aim for students to become deeply absorbed in what they are learning.

English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D)

A student who is learning English as an additional language or dialect is an EAL/D learner. These students have varying degrees of language and literacy proficiency in English and/or their home languages or dialects. 

environmental equity and justice

The right to a healthy and safe quality of life for all people now and for future generations. Environmental justice emphasises accountability, democratic practices, equitable treatment and self-determination.

environmental sustainability

A state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity, to allow all people to live well now and in the future. The complex interplay of social, economic and political contexts influence environmental sustainability. Creating environmental sustainability requires the development of approaches that address how to sustain life through the relational collective of healthy people, plants, air, water, animals and place. 


The quality of being fair and just. Equity in early childhood education and care means that the rights of the child to fully participate in these spaces are honoured. Equitable practice values and respects diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender and ability. Barriers to achievement are consciously addressed within a strengths based approach in consultation with children, families and communities. 


Two statements or propositions are understood to be equivalent if they are both true or both false. That is, the conditions which make one true, make the other true as well, and the conditions which make one false make the other false as well. 


To evaluate is to calculate or find a value, for example, when substituting values into a formula. Evaluating the expression 3x+4 when x=10, gives 3×10+4=34. 

evaluating (Design and Technologies)

Evaluating measures performance against established criteria. It estimates the nature, quality, ability, extent or significance to make a judgement determining the value. 

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.

evaluative language choices – expressing attitudes

Evaluative language choices or attitudes are used in narratives to engage the reader through the expression of emotion, evaluation of qualities or judgement of behaviour.  

Attitudes about characters can be expressed through evaluative vocabulary which:  

  • express feelings to help the reader align or not with a character
  • make judgements about people’s behaviour
  • consider the quality of things or people’s appearance.

Some ways that attitude can be expressed include: 

  • Evaluative nouns or noun groups: for example, ‘a twit’, ‘a bigger twit than ever’
  • Evaluative verbs or verb groups: for example slumped, staggered, stole, triumphed, continued to believe
  • Evaluative adjectives: for example ‘revolting tufts’, ‘hairy-faced men’, ‘a wonky nose and a crooked mouth’
  • Figurative language: for example, similes ‘like the bristles of a nailbrush’, and metaphors ‘in troubled waters’, ‘a heart of gold’

executive functioning

The over-arching capacity of an individual to manage what they attend to and think about, and how they combine this new information with what they already know. Across birth to eight years it is evidenced in children’s growing capacity to think things through and make well-considered decisions. From birth, the development of executive functioning is supported by positive and responsive interactions with significant people. 


Two or more numbers or variables connected by operations. For example, 17 – 9, 8x(2 + 3), 2a + 3b are all expressions. Expressions do not include an equal sign. 


factual adjectives: Describe qualities of something in a factual or objective way, e.g., size, age, shape, colour and other characteristics. For example, ‘The doctor drove a new car’; ‘She loves Vietnamese food’; ‘Bees have three body parts.

field or context

The subject matter or topic being developed in a particular situation.

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. 

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 approach

A functional approach toward language learning focuses on how language is used to construct oral and written texts for different audiences and purposes. For example, the language used to recount an experience is different to the language used to instruct. 


general-purpose programming language

A programming language designed to solve a wide range of programming problems (rather than a language designed for solving domain-specific problems or designed for pedagogical reasons). It includes procedural, functional and object-oriented programming languages, but does not include declarative programming languages such as Prolog or SQL. It includes scripting and/or dynamically typed languages such as Python and Ruby. Examples include C#, C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby and Visual Basic.

generalised participants in a noun group:

A noun group is a group of words that relate to a noun or build description of a noun. A generalised participant in a noun group refers to a nonspecific person, place or thing. For example, ‘people’, ‘animals’, ‘plants’, ‘aliens’, ‘clouds.’


A style or category into which writing, and texts are grouped. 


A type of non-verbal communication in which body actions convey particular messages. Gestures can occur with or without verbal communication. Gestures include movement of the hands, face, or other parts of the body.

gradual release of responsibility

This is a process where the responsibility for the use of a new strategy or skill is gradually transferred from the teacher to the student, as the student is apprenticed into knowing and doing. This process is made up of five stages and begins with: 

  1. The explicit teaching of a skill or strategy by the teacher.
  2. Modelling of the new skill or strategy by the teacher.
  3. Shared collaboration between teacher and student, with the teacher leading the work.
  4. Guided participation where the teacher supports the student to use the new skill or strategy.
  5. Student independent use of the skill or strategy through transferring learning to new situations.

Further information about the Gradual release of responsibility model can be found here


A grapheme is the technical term for a letter, for example, A, a, or a combination of two (digraph), three (trigraph), or four letters (quadgraph). 

graphic organisers

Digital frameworks that help structure thinking. They make thinking processes visible by showing connections between data. Examples include concept maps, flowcharts and cause-and-effect patterns. 

graphical organisers

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

graphical representation techniques

Techniques used to communicate ideas and plans, for example, sketching, drawing, modelling, making patterns, technical drawing, computer-aided drawing. The graphical representation techniques for each band are included in the band description. 


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.’ 

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!’ 


An implication is a statement of the form if ... then ... An implication is understood to be true unless the first part of the statement is true, but the second part of the statement is false. 


Involves taking into account all children’s social, cultural and linguistic diversity (including learning styles, abilities, disabilities, gender, family circumstances and geographic location) in curriculum decision-making processes. The intent is to ensure that all children’s rights and experiences are recognised and valued, and that all children have equitable access to resources and participation, and opportunities to demonstrate their learning and to value difference. 


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. 


An inference is an assertion made on the basis of analysis from given data or propositions; for example, on the basis of the weather patterns observed over several years, a farmer might infer that it is likely to be a hot summer. See also: data, proposition. 

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. 

informal language (colloquial)

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

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Digital and technological environments for development, communication and knowledge creation. Digital environments refer to computers (including laptops, tablets, smart boards) and computer games, the Internet, television and radio, among others. 

intentional teaching

When educators are deliberate, purposeful and thoughtful in their decisions and actions to support achievement of well-considered and identified goals for children. (EYLF) 


Refers to changes produced by the rise and fall of the voice when speaking. Changes in intonation can have an effect on the meaning of what is said, for example, rising intonation at the end of a sentence indicates a question. 

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. 


A state of intense, whole hearted mental activity, characterised by sustained concentration and intrinsic motivation. Highly involved children (and adults) operate at the limit of their capacities, leading to changed ways of responding and understanding leading to deep level learning (adapted from Laevers, 1994). Children’s involvement can be recognised by their facial, vocal and emotional expressions, the energy, attention and care they apply and the creativity and complexity they bring to the situation (adapted from Reflect, Respect, Relate, DECS 2008). 


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. 


Repetition of a process or set of instructions in computer programming. 



joint attention

The shared focus of two people on an object or action. Joint attention occurs when one-person points, looks and/or uses words or noises to draw another person’s attention to an object or action.  

joint construction

Refers to the stage of the teaching and learning cycle in which the teacher acts as a scribe for the students’ contributions, shaping them to approximate the genre under construction. 



language expansions

Strategyto develop a child’s expressive language. Language expansions occur when an adult adds to a child’s word/word combination by using more complex grammar or including more information. 

language skills

A consideration of children’s language involves expressive (use) and receptive (understanding) language skills that include syntax (ability to form sentences), morphology (ability to form words), semantics (understanding the meaning of words/sentences), phonology (awareness of speech sounds), pragmatics (how language is used in different contexts) and vocabulary. 


In the early years, literacy includes a range of modes of communication, including music, movement, dance, storytelling, visual arts, media and drama, as well as talking, viewing, reading, drawing and writing. As children progress into and through the early years of school there is increased emphasis on texts and the child’s writing. 

literal comprehension

Literal comprehension occurs when the reader understands information that is explicitly stated within the text. 



mass noun

A mass noun (also uncountable noun or non-count noun) is a type of common noun that cannot be modified by a number without specifying a unit of measurement. Example ‘rice’ is a mass noun; you cannot say “three rice.” 


Referring to conscious behaviour in which learners plan, monitor, evaluate and revise their progress in the course of the learning process. 


The language used to describe and talk about language.  


A metaphor is a comparison that shows how two things that are not alike in most ways are similar in one important way. It is based on a non-literal meaning. For example, when a person understands an idea, a metaphor might be ‘she saw the light’; when a person is angry, ‘she was hot under the collar’. Metaphors are usually culturally specific. 

modal verbs

Modal verbs are a set of verbs such as can, may, might, will, which are used to express different degrees of certainty. 


Modality is concerned with degrees of possibility, probability or certainty. Modality is expressed through auxiliary verbs or modifiers such as may be, should go, and certainly. 

mode (mathematics)

The mode is the most frequently occurring value in a set of data. There can be more than one mode. When there are two modes, the data set is said to be bimodal. The mode is sometimes used as a measure of location. 


A form of communication or semiotic (a meaning-making) system. Modes include spoken language, written language, still images, and audio, to name a few. The Victorian Curriculum 7–10 English references three language modes: Reading and Viewing; Writing; and, Speaking and Listening. 


A representation that describes simplifies, clarifies or explains the workings, structure or relationships within an object, system or idea. This can be either a physical model, such as in a scale model of a car or house to show the form of a final production design and is made with tools, jigs and fixtures; or virtual, such as a simulator program that demonstrates the capabilities of a vending machine through interaction with a computer user. 


Language modelling is used by adults to provide children with an example of more complex language and to facilitate the amount of talking children do. 


Defined as the smallest meaningful units of meaning i.e. prefixes, suffixes and base words. Morphemes are important for phonics (reading and spelling), as well as vocabulary and comprehension. Teaching morphemes is about unlocking the hidden structures and meanings within words. Morphemes are often spelt the same across different words (even when the sound changes), and often have a consistent purpose and/or meaning.  


Morphology is the study of the internal structure of words. It focuses on patterns of word formation, including prefixes, roots and suffixes. For example, the common rule for forming English plurals is the addition of the final –s; cat –cats.  

morphographic knowledge

Morphographic knowledge involves understanding that particular letter clusters carry meaning, for example, that ‘ed’ added to a verb means a past action, ‘s’ added to a noun means more than one and when added to a verb means a present action, ‘un' in front of an adjective means 'not', ‘micro’ means small. It also includes knowing the meaning of written root or stem words such as ‘hop’ or ‘mat’. Each of these is a morphographic pattern or feature.  

motor skills

The ability to create body movements that result from the interplay of the brain, nervous system and muscles. Motor skills are generally divided into fine motor skills (for example, movements of the smaller joints of the hands and fingers) and gross motor skills (for example, rolling, moving from sitting to standing, walking, running). 


Multilingualism refers to situations where two or more languages are present. For example, a multilingual society, a bilingual book or community newspaper.  


The use of digital systems and peripheral devices to present text, graphics, video, animation and sound in an integrated way. Examples include interactive games, media-rich websites, electronic books (eBooks) and/or animated short films. 

multimedia and information communication technology

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.  

multimodal formats

A multimodal format refers to the presentation of information in two or more formats or modes at once, for example, visual and auditory information about a particular event. 

multimodal texts

The presentation of information in two or more formats or modes at once, for example, visual and auditory information about a particular event.  

A text that comprises more than one mode of communication. Examples of multimodal texts are graphic novels (written language and still image), film (moving image, spoken language, audio), websites (still image, moving image, written language, audio), and oral presentations (gestural, spatial, spoken language). 

multi-syllabic words

A multi-syllabic word comprises more than one syllable. Example: syl-la-ble. A mono-syllabic word has one syllable. For example, bat and sat.  




A narrative is a genre or text type which tells a story or gives an account of real or imaginary events. It includes an orientation, a complication and a resolution. 


Nominalisation refers to the process of turning a verb into a noun form. Example, Consideration of this issue is vital instead of You should consider this issue. 

The process of forming a noun from a verb, adjective, or word group. Nominalisation is a common feature of abstract and complex texts. 

noun/ noun group

The noun group is the main grammatical resource for establishing the ‘who?’ or ‘what?’ in the clause. 

The head noun is the core part of the noun group. Noun groups can consist of a single word or can be expanded by adding words before the head noun (pre-modifier) and/ or after the head noun (post- modifier or Qualifier).

Pre-modifiers can be made up of:  

  • articles [a/an/the], demonstratives [e.g this, those], possessives [his, her]). These words answer the questions ‘which?’ or whose?’
  • adjective/s. These words answer the questions ‘how many?’, ‘what’s it like?’, ‘what type?’

In the description of Mr Twit, the following simple sentence includes a noun group with a pre-modifier of the head noun ‘men’: 

Mr Twit was one of these very hairy-faced men.
(Note: intensifiers such as ‘very’ can also be part of the pre-modifier)

Post-modifiers (called Qualifiers) are either a prepositional phrase (the hair on Mr Twit’s face) or an embedded clause which contains a verb (the hair growing on Mr Twit’s face). 

In the description of Mr Twit, the following simple sentence includes a pre- modifier and a post-modifier (or Qualifier) of the head noun ‘hair’: 

The hair on Mr Twit’s face didn’t grow smooth and matted as it does on most hairy-faced men. 

In this instance the post-modifier or Qualifier is a prepositional phrase ‘on Mr Twit’s face’. 

An important teaching point in identifying and using noun groups in narrative texts is that details can be placed before and after the noun to build description of characters. 


Includes understandings about numbers, structure and pattern, measurement, spatial awareness and data, as well as mathematical thinking, reasoning and counting. 


object-oriented programming (OOP) language

A programming language that supports the object-oriented programming paradigm, in object-oriented programming, objects represent a combination of data (the attributes of an object) and the actions that can be performed on or with that data (the methods of the object). An example might be the declaration of a ‘car’ which has attributes that describe its physical nature (such as the number of doors, its colour, the size of the engine) and the actions it can perform (such as accelerating, braking and turning). 

Its class defines the valid attributes and methods of an object, and these attributes and methods can be inherited from the definition of another class. Examples of OOP languages include C++, Eiffel, Java, Python and Scala. 


Onomatopoeic words are words that when pronounced sound similar to the actual sounds they describe. Example: clickety-clack, sizzle, buzz 


Onsets and rimes are parts of monosyllabic words in spoken language. These units are smaller than syllables but may be larger than phonemes. An onset is the initial consonant sound of a syllable (the onset of bag is b- ; of swim is sw-). Rime refers to the word endings. Example: –un in the words gun, run, sun . 


Orthography refers to the study of correct spelling according to established usage; the method of representing a language or the sounds of language by written symbols. It is concerned with letters and their sequences in words. 



parallel talk

When an adult describes what a child is doing and seeing to facilitate a child’s language learning. It does not require the child to speak or imitate.  


Paraphrasing is the process of expressing an idea "in one's own words". 

passive voice

The passive voice is used to show that the subject is ‘acted on’ by the agent or by something unknown. This can emphasise the person or thing being acted upon or to draw attention away from the agent. Example: The report was destroyed. (The emphasis is on the report, rather than who did it). 


Early childhood educators’ professional practice, especially those aspects that involve building and nurturing relationships, curriculum decision-making, teaching and learning. 


Personification is a form of metaphor in which animals, ideas, things, etc., are represented as having human qualities. Eg The trees sighed in the wind. 

persuasive texts

Persuasive texts are intended to convince readers to accept particular perspectives or points of view. 


A speech sound of which there are20 vowel sounds/phonemes, and 24 consonant sounds/phonemes in the English language. English can be thought of as an alphabetic language consisting of 44 speech sounds (phonemes) which map onto letter patterns (graphemes).  

phonemic awareness

Includes onset-rime identification, initial and final sound segmenting, as well as blending, segmenting, and deleting/manipulating sounds. Phonemic awareness is a critical subset of phonological awareness. 

phonemic knowledge

A phoneme is a single sound; the smallest unit of speech that distinguishes an utterance. Example: ‘pot’ and ‘hot’ are distinguished by the initial phoneme. Phonemic knowledge is what we know about individual speech sounds. Phonemic recording refers to changing each letter into a sound. 


In English, phonics is the teaching of introductory, basic, intermediate, and advanced sound-letter patterns (graphemes). Awareness and recall of these patterns is important for the development of both reading and spelling.  

phonological awareness

A focus of literacy teaching, and refers to the awareness of the different sound units within words. E.g. syllables, phonemes, onsets and rimes 

Phonological awareness is about hearing the multiple phonemes within words and recognising phonological patterns such as rhyme and alliteration. Phonological awareness is a crucial skill to develop in children, as it is strongly linked to early reading and spelling success, through its association with phonics. Phonological awareness skills can be conceptualised within a sequence of increasing complexity, including syllable rhyme, and alliteration, as well as phonemic awareness. 


Plurilingualism is the ability to use several different languages for communication, including switching between languages when necessary to help communication and learning. It involves an interconnected knowledge of multiple languages, even if a person has different levels of skills in each language. 


A prefix is a word part added to the beginning of a root or base word to create a new meaning. For Example: regain, incomplete. 


A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. Example: 

  • The cat is on the table.
  • The cat is beneath the table.
  • The cat is leaning against the table.

prepositional phrases

In narratives, prepositional phrases orient the reader to the setting, locating the imaginary world in time and place.  

‘Are We There Yet?’ (Text and illustrations by Alison Lester, published by Viking) uses many prepositional phrases to locate the family’s travels and activities, for example, 

We went snorkelling at Turquoise Bay. 

At Tunnel Creek we waded through an underground river. 

Prepositional phrases also work in narratives to provide details about characters and the actions in which they are involved. When reading narrative texts, an understanding of how prepositional phrases work will assist students in locating and interpreting details about the characters and activities in the narrative world. For example, prepositional phrases of time help track when events happen, or those of place locate the action, or those of manner might tell about how a character behaves.  

A prepositional phrase is made up of a preposition + noun group (e.g. with + thick hair). 

In the description of Mr Twit (by Roald Dahl, published by Jonathan Cape Ltd & Penguin Books Ltd.) prepositional phrases add to the details about Mr Twit provided in the noun groups. For example, in the first paragraph, we can see that each of the three simple sentences includes a noun group (underlined) and/or one (or more) prepositional phrase/s (bold italics). The combine impact of these grammatical resources is a rich description of a character: 

Mr Twit was one of these very hairy-faced men. The whole of his face except for his forehead, his eyes and his nose 

was covered with thick hair. The stuff even sprouted in revolting tufts out of his nostrils and ear-holes. 

Reading texts like this which ‘pack in’ information in noun groups and which elaborate on circumstances through prepositional phrases requires students to be attuned the details which are being given. In a narrative text, students need to be able to interpret how such details might help them understand a character, influence their thoughts about a character and engage with the character in particular ways. 

problem posing and solving (mathematics)

A two-part process. First, formulating a problem in such a way that it is amenable to mathematical analysis. Second, the application of mathematical reasoning to the development of a solution (or solutions) to a given problem. 


A pronoun is used as a substitute for a noun or a noun phrase. Example: 

  • He was downstairs
  • Did you see that?
  • It's lovely weather.


Prosody refers to the patterns of stress and intonation in a language.  


Punctuation refers to a set of marks used in writing to clarify meaning, separate parts of words, words and sentences. Example: a comma (,) can be used to mark a pause; and the exclamation mark (!) to mark surprise. 



question types

Used in an interaction to gain information. Questions may focus on objects (what), people (who), places (where), time (when) and process (how and why). 




Early literacy learners make connections about what they know in one mode of literacy to assist with another. For example, the knowledge gained from reading from top to bottom and left to right can also assist when composing text from top to bottom, left to right with spaces between words. 

regular verb

A regular verb is one that follows the pattern of taking –ed for the past simple and past participle.

relative clauses

A clause that modifies a noun in a sentence, or a noun phrase, is a relative clause. Example: the light, which is downstairs, is broken. 

relative pronoun

Relative pronouns are those that relate groups of words to nouns or other pronouns. Example: that or which. 

responsive practice

Occurs when educators are aware of the context in which they are teaching. Responsive practice often refers to awareness of the cultural context, but also ensures that educators are responsive to individual children’s needs.  

return sweep

English print travels from left to right and then returns to the left of the page for the next and each subsequent line. 


The part of the clause that generally follows the verb and introduces new information. 

rich language learning/experiences

Are rich in language, which includes: 

  • using lots of different words and concepts
  • being responsive to children’s verbal and nonverbal communication
  • using a mix of comments, instructions, and questions
  • demonstrating a wide variety of sentences (grammar), including short and longer sentences (e.g. ‘let’s find the fork that’s hidden in the tub!’)
  • discussing topics and ideas in detail
  • building upon children’s ideas, and helping them to explain their thinking
  • relating discussions to children’s world outside of the current setting (e.g. home and family life)
  • creating opportunities for back-and-forth conversations, encouraging children to tell more, and building upon children’s ideas.

rime units

The rime unit of a syllable or word is made up of the vowel sound and any other consonants. Eg, for the word that the rime is at. 



Discussed by Bruner and Vygotsky as occurring when an educator guides a child by asking questions, encouraging children to explore concepts and building upon their prior knowledge. 

Support provided to learners from a more experienced person in order to achieve outcomes that they would otherwise not be able to achieve on their own. 

science skills

Includes the development of scientific knowledge, questioning of scientific phenomena and the ability to draw conclusions about scientific subjects.Science skills also encompass the development of an awareness of how science and technology shape and affect our material, intellectual and cultural environments, and the ability to understand that we all are a part of nature’s cycles. 

segment words into sounds

Segmentation is the process of breaking words into smaller sound units. 


When an adult describes what he or she is doing to facilitate a child’s language learning. The adult provides the words to describe their actions, without expecting the child to respond. 

semantic context of the word

The semantic context of the word refers to its meaning. When words are in sentences, the meaning of the sentence as a whole influences how the word is interpreted. A similar effect is observed for words in paragraphs and longer texts. This is illustrated in the meaning of ‘run’ in the following sentences; 

  • The run was tiring.
  • The stocking had a run in it.
  • We have run out of wine.

semantic knowledge

refers to the study of meaning in language and changes of meaning. It is used to refer to the meanings of individual words, sentences and longer texts. 


The study of signs, symbols and meaning-making systems. 


The quality of understanding how a child feels, and the early childhood professional’s responsiveness to children’s needs and emotions. It is the ability of the early childhood professional to respond and interact in ways that are appropriate to the capabilities of the child, and with care, warmth and attentiveness (adapted from Macmillan, 2014). 


The setting of a narrative is where and when the narrative takes place. 


A simile is a figure of speech in which two basically different things are compared using ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Example: My love is like a red, red rose. It is as cold as ice. 

simple sentence

A simple sentence contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought. 

Many of the sentences used in Roald Dahl’s The Twits are simple sentences, that is, they each contain one independent clause. 

A clause is a group of words that contains a verb or verb group. An independent clause can ‘stand on its own’ and expresses a complete thought. Some of the simple sentences that Roald Dahl uses include large noun groups. For example, the following is a simple sentence: 

Mr Twit was one of these very hairy-faced men  

It includes one verb group ‘was’ and two noun groups ‘Mr Twit’ and ‘one of these very hairy-faced men’. The following example is also a simple sentence:  

In her right hand she carried a walking stick. 

It includes one verb group ‘carried’, one (adverbial) prepositional phrase ‘In her right hand’ and one noun group ‘a walking stick’.  

These two simple sentences are examples of the way that literary texts often compress descriptive information into the nominal groups and prepositional phrases whilst keeping clause structure relatively simple. 

skimming and scanning

Skimming and scanning are reading strategies that readers use either to isolate specific information in a written text or to collect information to infer its topic. Scanning refers to selecting information to answer a specific question. Skimming refers to selecting a set of words that are believed to indicate the overall topic or theme of the text. 

social skills

Are used to communicate and interact with other people. Social skills can be conveyed via both verbal and non-verbal communication, through gestures, and body language. 

socio-cultural values

Socio-cultural values refer to the attitudes and dispositions that influence a person’s thinking, comprehension and perception that are learnt from the social and cultural groups to which the person belongs. 

socio-cultural context

Every cultural and social situation is underpinned by particular ‘norms’ or values. These are the accepted ways of interpreting information, thinking and behaving. A sociocultural context is a situation that is defined by these norms. 

sociocultural values

Sociocultural values refer to the attitudes and dispositions that influence a person’s thinking, comprehension and perception that are learnt from the social and cultural groups to which the person belongs. 

socio-emotional development

Social and emotional learning that occurs from birth through interactions, relationships and everyday experiences with others. As children’s socio-emotional development advances they become increasingly able to form and sustain positive relationships, experience, manage and express emotions, and explore and engage with their environment. 


A stereotype is a popularly held belief about a type of person or a group of people which does not take into account individual differences. 


The relative emphasis placed on particular words, syllables or sounds when speaking. Stress can add to the meaning of the words spoken. 

structured English

The use of the English language to describe the steps of an algorithm in clear, unambiguous statements that can be read from start to finish. The use of keywords, such as START, END, IF, UNTIL, provides a syntax similar to that of a programming language to assist with identifying logical steps necessary to describe the algorithm properly. 


A suffix is a word part that is added to the end of a root word to modify its meaning or change it into a different word class. Example: happiness. The suffix ness changes the word happy from an adjective into a noun. 

sustained shared thinking

When two or more individuals work together in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept [or] evaluate an activity. Both parties must contribute to the thinking and it must develop and extend the understanding’ (Sylva et al., 2004, p. 6).  

For early childhood professionals, sustained shared thinking involves children and educators working together in conversations, which provide opportunities to discuss and think about problems or challenges in a serious, extended way (adapted from NQS PLPe-learning Newsletter No. 43, 2012). 


Using marks or symbols that have a meaning particular to mathematical language, for example, the written statement ‘two is less than 3’ can be written symbolically as ‘2 < 3’. 


A synonym is a word having nearly the same meaning as another. Example: fast and quick 

syntactic knowledge

refers to knowledge of the grammatical structure of language, the order of words within meaningful sentences. 


A knowledge of the rules for forming sentences 

The ways words, phrases and clauses are structured in sentences. In some schools of linguistics, syntax and grammar are used interchangeably. 




The diverse range of products that make up the designed world, encompassing not only computers and digital technologies but also processes, systems, services, environments and machines. 

text complexity

Refers to how easy or difficult it is to read and understand a particular text. The Standards’ Model of Text Complexity is a three-part model that measures text complexity according to: quantitative factors (e.g. word length, sentence length, text cohesion; qualitative factors (e.g. levels of meaning, purpose or abstraction); and, reader and task (e.g. reader’s skill and complexity of reading task). 

text feature

An element of a text that aids in the organisation or that complements meaning. Text features include headings, graphics, images, captions, lists, special print (e.g. bold, italics), and glossaries. 


Things that we read, view and listen to and that we create in order to share meaning. Texts can be print-based, such as books, magazines and posters or screen-based, for example internet sites and DVDs. Many texts are multimodal, integrating images, written words and/or sound. 

textual features, types

Texts differ in both the purposes for which they are produced and how they are structured. Four common types are fictional or narrative texts (for example, novel, short story, imaginative, feature film, fairy tale, picture story book, chapter books), informational or factual texts (for example, instruction, explanation, recipe, procedure), verse (for example, poetry, song) and persuasive text (for example, advertisement) autobiography, drama, oral history. 

Each text type has particular features that makes it like other texts in the type and different from those in other types, for example, fictional texts differ from informational or factual texts on the same topic. Many texts have more than one text type. 


The first part of the clause that signals how the topic is being developed. 


Describes the subject being discussed, drawn, or written about.  


The process of moving between environments or routines, including between home and early childhood settings. 


Translanguaging refers to the natural and flexible ways that bilingual and multilingual people use their languages across multilingual contexts. This can involve innovative ways of using and integrating elements of different languages. 

translating and interpreting

A translator translates written texts from one language to another. Languages cannot be translated word for word because sentences and meaning are constructed differently in different cultures and languages. Instead, translators consider the best way to communicate the original meaning and cultural references in the translated document.  

An interpreter translates spoken language orally. 


Transliteration involves using the characters of one script to represent the sounds in another language or the characters of another script. For example, using the English alphabet to spell out foreign words such as ‘kimchi’ or Aboriginal words such as ‘wominjeka’. 


A trigraph is a group of three letters that are associated with a sound, for example, ‘eau’ in ‘plateau. 


Allows conversations to be organised and ensures that one person speaks at a time in alternating turns.  



verb/ verb group

The verb group refers to what is happening or a state in a clause. The verb group can consist of a single word (e.g. He played a game.) or a number of words (He could have been playing a game.)  

The verb group indicates tense, polarity (positive or negative) aspect (whether the situation is completed or not) or modality (the assessment of the speaker about the situation). The different verb types noted in the Victorian Curriculum, F – 10 are: doing (e.g. I jumped over the fence); relating (being e.g. Cats are good pets. or having e.g. A goat has horns.); thinking (I believe that is true.); and saying (e.g. I whispered to the giant.).  

verb tense agreement

Verb tense agreement refers to the appropriate use of verb tense to show the time relation between the tense in the main clause and the tense in the subordinate clause in a complex sentence. 

visual literacies

Visual literacy concerns how meaning is made in still and moving image texts. It is addressed in the Victorian Curriculum: English through the mode of ‘viewing’. 

Visual literacy involves closely examining diverse visual texts across a range of text types. Text types include non-fiction, textbooks, picture books, art, advertisements, posters, graphic novels, comic strips, animations, film clips, web pages, and more. 


Visualising is a term given to the process by which readers construct and use mental images while reading the text. This is done during reading to aid in understanding. Readers imagine what the ideas in the text would ‘look like’, usually in ‘time and place’ contexts. 


Any sound that is made by using the voice. Vocalisations can be made up of repeated sounds or sounds which approximate words without being real words. 


Voice shows the relationship between the verb and the noun phrases. There are two voices in English – active and passive. Refer to these in the glossary for more information. 

vowel digraphs

Vowel digraphs are a combination of two or three vowels that together are associated with one sound, for example, ‘ai’ or ‘ou’.