Using a Common Vocabulary

Jun 19, 2015

A few weeks ago I shared that many teachers from my school have been doing a book study together.  It has been going well and we have one chapter left.  It has been fun to visit individual homes of the teachers I work with around the city.  Makes for a nice change of environment.
The book that we have been reading is Reading Reflex:

We have discussed Chapter 3: Teaching the Basic Code, Chapter 4: Adjacent Consonant Sounds, and Chapter 5: Teaching the Advanced Code.  Each chapter has provided us with some good conversations about how we each teach these skills in our classroom.  This led to a better understanding of how we could be more cohesive as a building.  And one way that we can do that is through the language that we use.

The book offers some interesting perspectives of the language that is used in most classrooms (this book is written for parents).  The book goes in depth explaining that letters do not "make" sounds.  They represent sounds.  They suggest the term sound picture should be used versus vowel team or other common terms.  We really liked the idea of using represent versus make.  But we also recognize that the kids we work with are very transient and need to understand that "vowel picture" and "vowel team" are terms that can be used interchangeably.

The book also points out that using the terms long and short for vowels is confusing to children because they are terms for length.  And that the term blends is confusing because we are actually blending all the sounds in a word.  I completely understand both points that they are making.  It makes complete sense to me.  But...again...our students are very transient and need to know those terms because they are used in most schools.  So we decided to stick with them.

Because the book takes a different view on vocabulary used by teachers, it has made for some great conversations.  And since we just completed our building Literacy framework, it has been a good time for us to talk about language and the instructional strategies we want to use to teach phonics.

To sum up my rambling....we have decided that we were using lots of different terms to teach the exact same things.  For example: sight words, know by heart words, popcorn words, high frequency words all meant the same thing.  We are going with sight words.  So here are some terms that we are sticking with as a building:

Do you have agreed upon terms in your school?  Do you have any suggestions for us?

Coming Soon: The book does a really great job explaining how sounds are related and not related with visuals.  This was a HUGE takeaway for me!  Be on the lookout for it :)


  1. Replies
    1. Sorry...I should have stated that..."red" words is the term that Orton Gillingham uses for words that you cannot sound out. Like....the, of, etc. There are several teachers trained in this at my school and so we decided to use this term but teach the kids what it means.

  2. Sounds like this would be a great read for my school. Our district is very into common vocabulary, so this could help (as long as could come to consensus about what that vocabulary would be...). Keep cool, it's turing into a HOT summer!!

  3. Can I come teach at your school? It feels as if each teach is an island at my place. I love to have more discussions about great practices and less about dress code and fund raisers....ugh!

  4. Wow, sounds like you're having some important conversations. I don't recall ever talking about things like that with my colleagues. What you're doing reminds me of one of my math books I've read this summer. The author talked about some math vocabulary that is faulty and confusing for kids. Anyway, nice job!

  5. We've never had these discussions either, but this sounds like it might be a great place to start! I know we aren't all using the same vocabulary room-to-room, and I'm sure it is confusing for our kiddos, especially when they are changing rooms! I never thought what a child might visualize when we say "letters makes sounds". Represent makes much more sense. I agree with the transient idea too, though, as we would be in a similar situation.

    Did all teachers participate? Was it optional? Just curious how that all worked... :)



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