Seven Reading Terms Parents NEED to Know

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When talking with parents, it can be easy to forget that they do not use educational jargon every single day like we do. Conferences can become confusing or even pointless when common terms are not known to parents. In my experience, most confusion comes from reading terms.

Here are seven important reading terms and what they mean…

1. Decoding

The term ‘decoding’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘sounding out an unknown word.’ When students are working on decoding, they are using a variety of strategies to determine the word. Encoding is the opposite of decoding, where students are translating sounds into letters on paper (writing/spelling).

2. Accuracy

Accuracy is correctly reading a word. When assessing student reading, the teacher will access accuracy specifically to see the rate at which the child is correctly reading the text. If his reading accuracy is 95% then he read 95% of the words correctly (or self-corrected). Accuracy is very important because it shows how well the student is able to use various strategies to decode unknown words. Accuracy is also tied to comprehension and fluency (see below).

3. Fluency

Fluency is the ability to read through text at a proper rate, with proper expression and with accuracy. I’ve always explained this term to my students this way: ‘a fluent reader sounds like she is talking.’ It should be smooth, expressive and should make sense. A student who is not fluent will stop often to decode unknown words, will not stop at punctuation marks or will read very slowly. Fluency greatly affects comprehension as well (see below).

4. Comprehension

This term is very well-known, but many parents do not know how it is assessed and how it connects to other terms. Comprehension is the ability to understand what is read. There is oral comprehension and written comprehension. Oral comprehension is where students show what they know from the text by answering questions out-loud. Written comprehension is where students respond to a question about the text in the form of a written response (MUCH more challenging). Comprehension is greatly affected by fluency and accuracy. If a student is incorrectly reading words (no accuracy) and/or is not reading with fluency, his comprehension will be very negatively affected. Fluency and accuracy must be proficient first before comprehension can be improved.

5. Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the awareness of the individual sounds (phonemes) in a word. There are many activities and assessments associated with phonemic awareness. This is a very important skill and it influences both reading and writing. Here are some examples of phonemic awareness:

  • What are the sounds in cat? (/c/, /a/, /t/)
  • Change the ‘c’ in cat to a ‘p.’ What word is it now? (pat)
  • Change the ‘a’ in cat to a ‘u.’ What word is it now? (cut)
  • Change the ‘t’ in cat to ‘p.’ What word is it now? (cap)
  • What word do these sounds make? /h/ /i/ /p/ (hip)

6. Segmenting

Segmenting is a skill connected to phonemic awareness. Segmenting is seen in the first bullet under phonemic awareness. Segmenting is breaking a word down into its individual phonemes. This is one type of phonemic awareness. Segmenting is a very useful skill to help with encoding (writing). We encourage kids to tap out each sound in the word they are trying to write and then write a letter that matches that sound. Segmenting is also very helpful in reading as students will segment the unknown word into its individual phonemes and then will blend them back together (see below).

7. Blending

Blending is essentially the opposite of segmenting. Instead of breaking down a word into sounds, blending is combining the sounds to form a word. Blending is an essential skill for reading as it is commonly used to decode unknown words. It can also be used in writing to check if the word written makes sense by blending the sounds of the letters together to see if it forms the correct word.

Hopefully this post was able to demystify some of the reading terms you might hear during conferences. If you understand the terminology then you will better be able to help your child with her reading!

Let me know in the comments if there are other educational terms you would like explained!

Talk to you soon for the Tuesday Two!


Seven Reading Terms Parents NEED to Know copy

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An education blog created by Kim. A former elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom. Useful tips and tricks from a teacher to parents.

One thought on “Seven Reading Terms Parents NEED to Know

  1. I think another thing that parents don’t always realize is that decoding and encoding is two different skills. Just because I can sound out a word to read it doesn’t mean that I can then sound it to out to write it. Two different skills

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