11 Reading terms to know so you can impress your child’s teacher

You’ll never be bamboozled by your child’s teacher again once you learn these 11 reading terms and what they mean.

Next time you’re attending a parent-teacher meeting you can nod enthusiastically when the teacher is discussing your child’s reading, because you’ll know exactly what they’re talking about once you get these reading terms and their meanings into your brain’s filing cabinet of useful things to know.

  1. Consonants – These are all the letters in the English alphabet that are not vowels, so: b c d f g h j k l m n p q r s t v w x y z There are 21 of them.
  2. Vowels – These are all the other letters that are not consonants. a e i o & u. Beware of ‘tricky y’, this is consonant that wants to be a vowel and sometimes it is in words like; type, gypsy, bye & system.
  3. Long Vowels – Are simply vowels that makes a long sound. The same sound as the letter name in the alphabet. For example: “A” as in apron, “E” as in eat, “I” as in ice-cream, “O” as in open and “U” as in uniform.
  4. Decoding – This is related to reading. It’s the process of identifying letter symbols and knowing which sounds they are making in words when you are reading. When our children are reading, they are decoding the words, turning the symbols into sounds and creating meaning as they read. The word CAT can be decoded in sounds as “cuh” “ah” “tuh”.
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  6. Digraph – In this word ‘di’ means 2 and ‘graph’ relates to graphemes or letter symbols so, 1 digraph is 2 consonants or 2 vowels that together make just one sound. Think of “ch” in chip or “ea” in steak.
  7. Encoding – This is related to spelling. It is the process of identifying letter sounds and predicting which letters they represent when writing or spelling a word. “duh” “o” “guh” makes the word DOG.
  8. Fluency – Is the ability to read with speed and accuracy, with the appropriate expression, whilst comprehending what is being read.
  9. Phonics – Is the relationship between letters in the English alphabet and the sounds they make in English words.
  10. Semantics – The meaning of written text.
  11. Syllable – The beat or the rhythm of words. For example, the word “happy” has 2 syllables – hap/py. The word “violin” has 3 syllables – vi/o/lin.
  12. Syntax – The set of rules used when writing complete sentences in the English language.


  1. Avatar Amy   •  

    I take issue with the sentence, “Never be bamboozled by your child’s teacher…” The teachers I know are not in the business of trying to pull the wool over the eyes of their students’ parents, but rather helping the parents to understand areas of strength and weakness in the students. Your article makes it sound like teachers are intentionally trying to mislead parents.

    • Avatar Sara   •  

      My first thoughts as well! I was instantly turned off by this article when I read the “bamboozled” sentence. While I appreciate this article for educating parents on “teacher jargon”, to say that teachers are trying to bamboozle parents just makes that parent-teacher communication more difficult.
      I find this website and the most of the information valuable but I have been very disappointed lately by several articles posted here and on facebook. My fellow teachers and I work tirelessly every day with classroom sizes of 30 students and we definitely are not in the business of bamboozling parents!

    • Avatar Liz Dunoon   •  

      Plenty of teachers talk at parents and use educational words to intimidate them in meetings. This has happened to me in the past and plenty of other parents as well. Of course not all teachers do this or would ever do this. As with any profession there are the good and the bad. Next time you have a parent information session with the parents of the children in your class if you ask them if they are know what these terms mean. You will find that many don’t and don’t really know what ‘phonics’ is – even though it is a commonly used term in most schools today.

      • Avatar Sara Ballard   •  

        It’s not that I don’t think it is great to inform parents of what educational lingo means. I am all for that! It is the fact that the word bamboozled and when you say “talk at” it makes it seem like teachers are against parents and that their goal is to intimidate parents. It is certainly a minority of teachers and I’m pretty sure that intimidating is never their goal. I just think we should choose words that encourage a partnership since the goal of educators is to help all children. When negative words are used it doesn’t help anything!

  2. Avatar D'Ann Kuhlmann   •  

    I have an issue with telling parents the sound of the letter D is “duh” and G is “guh.” We never teach students to say those sounds as such. These sound should always be clipped off. Never making the “uh” sound as this often makes a child add the letter U when spelling. I am trained in both the Wilson Language System and Scottish Rite Take-Flight and was taught this in both of these programs. Just my opinion….

    • Avatar Laurie H   •  

      Thanks D’Ann, I was getting the shivers reading the pronunciation explanation. You are totally correct. Thanks for replying first.

    • Avatar Liz Dunoon   •  

      This is very polarising topic and one I am called on regularly….but I stick to my guns on this one. My teaching method is titled ‘The Speech to Spelling Method’ and it is hugely successful. I start with spoken words and move towards written words. There is no way you can pronounce “d” without hearing a “duh” no matter how tiny the sound of it is. The children I teach don’t have any issue with this as the spelling “duh’ is the visual cue that tells them how to say the sound when they are decoding an unknown word. It’s a technicality I know as it does depend on how you read and pronounce “duh”, but I model all sounds in my system 1-1 so the children know how to sound out words correctly from day one. Whereas this means nothing to them /d/ in terms of a visual cue.

  3. Avatar Philippa Youngs   •  

    I agree with the above comments as the consonants should be one single sound hence d-o-g. Also the letter y is not randomly a vowel. It is only a vowel when there are no other vowels in a syllable hence -type -the y is a vowel because type is one syllable and the only other vowel e is silent.

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