In every profession there are terms, phrases, and abbreviations that are common knowledge only to insiders. For the rest of us, the lingo can be very confusing. This glossary is intended to offer simple explanations of what are sometimes complex issues in education. It is far from complete but may help you better understand important trends and topics. Bear in mind that the meaning of many of these terms may vary, even from school district to school district.
Many of the words and usages in the English language do not follow consistent rules. For instance, we say "cat" for one cat and "cats" for more than one, but we say "sheep" when we mean one or more than one. Other familiar exceptions to grammar rules are verbs, such as when we say "look, looked, looking," but not "run, runned, and running." There is no rule that explains why we say "ran" for the past tense. Many educators feel it is easier for young children to learn to read if the words they are trying to "decode," or figure out, actually follow the rules. Hence, they have created books that are entirely "decodable," using the common grammatical rules. Children using these materials are not exposed to all of the "exceptions" until they have mastered the words that follow these rules. (See Decoding Skills.)
When children encounter a new word or phrase, they should immediately try to "decode" the word using what they know about letter sounds and the rules of grammar. Thus, a word starting with "sh" should prompt a child to make the "sh" sound as in "shut." If that fails to produce a word that is familiar, the child might skip the word and read past it for some clues to its meaning or may reread the sentence for syntactical clues as to what would logically come next in the sentence. All of these methods of deciphering a new word are "decoding skills."
This phrase is used to describe intensive, small-group instruction using a set of prescriptive materials. In these settings, children are taught phonics, word decoding skills, and the rules of English. Direct instruction has usually been reserved for those students considered "at risk." Direct instruction for reading is generally considered the opposite approach to whole language instruction.
Individuals with dyslexia commonly confuse the appearance and order of letters, words, and events. Simple examples of this would include the child who sees the word "how" but reads it as "who" or wants to write the word "saw" but instead writes the word "was." Dyslexia is most obvious when dealing with the printed word, but in severe cases the individuals have trouble speaking sentences in the correct order or retelling stories or events.
Enrichment classes are often provided for students that are considered "gifted." They are intended to give the child opportunities to develop special individual skills and talents. Other enrichment classes are those beyond the normal expected curriculum, and are open to any interested students. Examples of enrichment classes might be computer courses, foreign language instruction, or the arts.
These letters stand for "English for Speakers of Other Languages." ESOL classes are usually "pull-out programs," in which students leave their regular classrooms for 60 to 90 minutes for intensive instruction in English. These children spend the rest of their day in an English-speaking environment. This is not the same as Bilingual Education. (See LEP.)
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are those that require us to use our smallest muscles for very slight controlled movements. Fine motor skills are usually associated with a child's ability to fit small Lego’s together, control a crayon or pencil, or work a puzzle. These usually develop long after the child has control of large muscles for gross motor skills.