Terminology Glossary




Producing language with correct  grammar and phonology.

authentic text A text (either written or spoken), that was not made for learners of English, but would be found in real life. For example, adverts, menus, instruction manuals, newspaper articles, packaging etc.
auxiliary verb A verb that is used together with the main verb – a kind of helping verb which affects the function or grammar of the main verb. The most common auxiliary verbs in English are be, do and have. For example, in the following sentence, eat is the main verb and there is no auxiliary verb.

‘I eat pizza every Friday.’

In this sentence:

‘I have eaten the pizza.’

The main verb is eaten and the auxiliary verb is have.









A technique we can use when drilling to help with pronunciation. We start by getting student to repeat the end chunk of a sentence and then extend backwards including more and more of the sentence for repetition. For example;

‘told him’

‘have told him’

‘I’d have told him’

‘seen him, I’d have told him’

‘If I’d seen him, I’d have told him.’

cline A way of organizing a group of related words by degree, which helps convey their meaning. For example;








collocation Words or phrases that regularly go together. e.g. do homework (not make homework) make the bed (not do the bed), a mild curry (not a weak curry), etc.

Research shows that we store language in chunks such as these and it helps us be more fluent.

concept The meaning / use of a or grammatical structure or item of vocabulary.
concept checking questions (CCQs) Questions used to check that students have understood the concept of the language we are teaching. Rather than asking ‘Do you understand?’ (to which students will usually answer yes even if they don’t understand), we can ask questions that will show us if they do or don’t understand.

When creating CCQs there are some important principles to follow;

  • The questions should avoid using the target language to check the target language. For example, you can’t check understanding of the present continuous by using the present continuous. We can’t check the meaning of ‘He is watching TV’ by asking ‘Is he watching TV?’ Students will be able to answer the question, but still may not understand.
  • The questions should check the target language, not other incidental language in the sentence. If our example sentence of the present continuous is ‘He is watching TV’, then asking ‘Is he watching a movie?’ does’t help at all.
  • CCQs should use short sentences, with language that is as simple and direct as possible.
  • Answers should most of the time be unambiguous and clear to everyone.
connected speech This describes what happens to the way we pronounce words when they are not said in isolation, but said naturally in a sentence and connected to each other.
connotation A word can sometimes have a positive or negative connotation. For example, thin and skinny mean almost the same, but skinny has a negative connotation. Connotation may convey the speaker’s attitude or intent and is often affected by the context.
contractions When we speak and when we write (unless it is very formal written English) we use contractions. For example:

I will is contracted to I’ll.

I would is contracted to I’d.

controlled practice Activities where the students’ use of a particular language structure or vocabulary item is limited by the task itself. Students have little or no choice of which language to use – their choice is controlled by what can correctly be used in the task. Controlled practice aims to develop greater accuracy. It can be spoken or written and is also known as restricted practice.
diphthong A sound made by moving smoothly from one vowel sound to another. For example, the vowel sound in ‘day’ is formed by going without interruption from the sound /e/ to the sound /ɪ/ producing the diphthong /eɪ/.
drilling A technique for helping with pronunciation. The teacher models language and the students repeat. The aim is to improve pronunciation and to aid memory.

When drilling it is a good idea to go from choral drilling (whole class), to group drilling, to individual drilling. This allows students to build confidence before they are asked to repeat the language on their own. It also allows the teacher to listen for the most common pronunciation problems. The teacher should help students improve where problems are identified either through teacher, peer or self-correction.

elicit Rather than telling or giving students a word / structure / answer, we try and get the students to give it by asking questions and prompting. This is eliciting, and it encourages students to be active rather than passive and may aid memory.
elision A feature of connected speech. In words which end in consonant clusters ending in /t/ or /d/, the final /t/ or /d/ is usually missed out (‘elided’) before a following word beginning with a consonant. For example, “last week” is normally pronounced /lɑ:s wi:k/, “next please” is /neks pli:z/, “post this letter” is /pəʊs ðɪs letə/.
feedback A stage in the lesson where students find out how they did with a particular task or have answers clarified.

For any spoken task, for example, we would usually conduct feedback on the content (e.g. Did everyone in the group agree? What did your partner say? etc.) and on the language used (i.e. error correction and highlighting good examples of language).

In tasks where there is a right or wrong answer (e.g. a reading comprehension, a grammar gap-fill), feedback would involve establishing the correct answers and making sure all students understood why they were correct.

fluency The ability to communicate in real time and be understood; to get your point across – though not necessarily to use language accurately in doing so.
form The ‘recipe’ or ‘formula’ for making a particular structure – a pattern to be followed to correctly to construct an item of language.
freer practice Practice that focuses on developing greater fluency with a language point. Students have more choice about which language they use to complete the task and students ideally use the language in a way close to how they would need to in real life. The teacher should stay out of this kind of activity and monitor without interfering.
function What we use a particular piece of language to do. For example, the function of the chunks, ‘If I were you…’ and ‘You should…’ share the function of offering advice. Other examples include apologizing, making arrangements, showing sympathy and complaining.
gap-fill A very controlled language exercise. Students must fill a gap with a correct answer, for the example the correct form of a verb or a particular item of vocabulary.
gist question / task A reading or listening task which is designed to practice gaining general or overall information about a text, rather than detail. The skill practised with this type of task is skimming.
information gap A communication activity where one student or a group of students has some information that the other student or students does not have – each has incomplete information which can only be completed by communicating with the other student/s. An example of this would be a ‘spot the differences’ activity. Students A and B each have a picture which is very similar, but each contains several differences. In order to discover what these differences are, they cannot show their picture to their partner, but must communicate.
Instruction checking questions (ICQs) These are questions the teacher asks to check students have understood what they should do. These questions should be short, clear and not ask, ‘Do you understand?’ They should ideally focus on any elements of an activity that the teacher has identified as potentially confusing to students.
intensive reading Reading with attention to detail for a thorough understanding of a text.
interaction / interaction patterns This is about who is working with who in the classroom. For example, interaction could be shown on the lesson plan as T-Ss (teacher to students) during a stage in the lesson when the teacher is giving instruction, but S-S when students are working in pairs – these are interaction patterns. We want to maximise student to student interaction and minimize teacher to student interaction (where possible), to avoid a teacher-centred lesson. We also want to try and vary interaction during the lesson – so for example, we could include individual work, pair work, small group work, whole class activities and mingles in our lessons.
intonation How the voice goes up and down in tone and pitch when we speak.
intrusion In some accents we see this in connected speech. When a word ends in a vowel and is followed by a word that begins with a vowel sound, the two sounds are linked to each other by the ‘intrusion’ of a consonant sound. In other words, a sound that is not there in the written form is inserted in the spoken form. E.g. You and I = /ju:wəndaɪ/.
lexis Vocabulary -all the words and phrases that are used in a language.
lexical set A group of words or phrases that are related. They could be related by topic (e.g. food), or by form (e.g. adjectives), or by meaning (e.g. they are all negative).
linking In connected speech, when a word that ends with a consonant is connected to the next word beginning with a vowel sound, the two words sound joined and they run into each other. For example an apple sounds like anapple  /ənæpəl/.
mingle A speaking activity. Students get up out of their seats and ‘mingle’ – talking freely to everyone, as if at a party. They usually have a question to ask or point to discuss as they mingle.
model When a teacher gives a clear and correct example of a piece of language so that everyone can hear how it is said, and use it as an example. The teacher models before drilling.

We can also provide students with a model text, which they can examine and use as an example in writing and speaking tasks.

monitor While students are working either individually or with each other, the teacher should be watching, checking students are on task and noticing how they are doing. This is called monitoring. The teacher can then either help students with any problems they see there and then, or perhaps make notes and respond during feedback.
pairchecking During any task it always helpful to give students the opportunity to check / compare their answers with a partner or in a small group. The reason being that when the teacher  comes to do feedback, students are much more likely to have the right answers and it encourages peer teaching and greater interaction. Students will also feel more confident with their answers. In addition, this pair checking period provides an extra opportunity for the teacher to monitor and become more aware of any areas that may need further clarification.
pairwork Students work together with a partner – helping to increase interaction and communication and making the lesson less teacher-centred.
phoneme The smallest unit of sound in a language that communicates meaning. For example, in the word big, there are three phonemes. /b/, /ɪ/ and /g/. In the word beg, there are also three phonemes; /b/, /e/ and /g/. There is one phoneme that is different in each word. This difference in phoneme is enough to change to the meaning of the word. 
phonemic alphabet/phonemic script A series of 44 symbols which represent the phonemes of English. We can use these symbols to show students how to pronounce words and also to highlight changes in connected speech.
presentation The stage in a language lesson where the meaning, form and pronunciation of the target language is highlighted and clarified.
pre-teach lexis / pre-teach vocab In a lesson where students are required to read or listen to a text, there may be words or phrases that they do not know. In order to make the text more accessible to them, we can teach the words that are essential to their understanding of the text, before they read or listen. It is important to note that we do not pre-teach all the unknown words in the text, but only those which we think are essential to their understanding of the text as a whole, or are required in order to complete the reading or listening tasks.
productive skills Speaking and writing skills. Those which involve outputting, or producing language.
productive follow-up After students have done receptive skills work (reading or listening), ideally they are given the opportunity to react to the topic or content of the text in the form of a productive (written or spoken) skills task. This mirrors a lot of real-life situations, when we take the information we have gained from a text and use it in some way.
process writing A way of approaching writing skills which focuses on the processes we go through when we write i.e. generating ideas, organising ideas, drafting, editing, re-writing.
realia Real-life objects used in the classroom to teach the meaning of the objects. For example, if we wanted to teach words for fruit, we could bring the actual fruit into the classroom.
receptive skills Listening and reading skills. Those which involve taking in and interpreting information.
scan When we read to try and locate a particular piece of information. We often know what kind of thing we are looking for before we start to read in this way. For example, we may be looking for a time, name of a person, where in the text it talks about a particular job etc.
skills Lesson A lesson aimed at developing the students’ receptive or productive skills (and not at introducing new language).
skim To read in order to get the main idea(s) from a text (a form of extensive reading). If we were thinking of buying a newspaper, we might skim the front page to see if it was going to be of interest to us.
sentence stress In a sentence such as “Would you like to go to a movie?”, although there are eight words, only three of them receive a stress, i.e. like, go, movie. These are the three words that carry the information in the sentence ( “Like go movie?”, is not grammatically correct, but it would be comprehensible).
stress Greater lung power used on a syllable within a word or a sentence, making it louder, a little longer and higher-pitched than the surrounding or following syllables.
STT Student talking time.
syllable All words consist of one or more syllables. In English, a syllable contains one vowel sound (and only one). This vowel may stand alone or there may be consonants before or after it.
target language (TL) The language the teacher is aiming to teach in the lesson.
task cycle The process we go through to set up an activity, followed by students completing it with the teacher monitoring, followed by feedback.
task-based learning: (TBL) An approach to language learning based on the perception that we usually use language to achieve an end or produce a result. In a task-based lesson, the students complete a task with an outcome. The overall aim of the lesson is the successful completion of the task. In the process, however, the students will be motivated to study language useful for doing this.
Text-based Language Lesson A lesson shape used in lessons where the students are working on new grammatical (or lexical) language point. The teacher uses the text to put this language into context. They then elicit example sentences for modelling, concept checking and drilling, form this text. 
time line a visual representation of a tense, used for highlighting meaning or concept checking.
TTT Teacher talking time.
T-T-T (Test-Teach-Test) Lesson An approach for teaching language where the teacher first checks to see what students already know about the language, usually by doing some sort of controlled practice activity. Clarification then focuses on the things students had difficulty with. This is followed by another test to see if students have improved.
voiced/unvoiced consonants An unvoiced consonant is made without vibrating the vocal chords. A voiced consonant is made by allowing the vocal chords to vibrate at the same time as the air is restricted or released.
vowel A sound produced by a free flow of air through the vocal tract. The sound of a particular vowel depends on the shape and size of the space inside the mouth.
weak forms An important feature of connected speech which results from stress-timing. Most of the monosyllabic words that show grammatical relationships in English (i.e. prepositions, articles, pronouns, conjunctions and auxiliaries) have two pronunciations. In most sentences, these words are never stressed (because they do not normally carry the new or important information in the sentence) and they are pronounced with a ‘weak form’.
written consolidation A short written practice exercise which gives the students an opportunity to check that they can manipulate the form of the target language correctly and/or distinguish clearly between the concepts of two tenses, for example. Some people also refer to this as controlled practice.
written record A record of the target language which gives  information  about form or part of speech, concept and pronunciation. While building up the written record, the teacher tries to involve the students in spelling and/or highlighting form, etc. Alternatively, students can be given this information on a handout or work on a guided discovery activity.
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