Glossary of literacy terms

Each set of 10 workbook photocopiable masters in Read Write Spell includes this glossary. I have included this glossary of literacy terms in response to colleagues' requests.

Vowel

The letters a e i o and u are vowels. The letter y is a vowel when it makes the sound (i) as in happy or (i) as in cry.

Vowels have a long sound and also a short sound.

After w and qu the vowel sound is modified as in watch.

Consonant

Any letter that is not a vowel. The letter y is a consonant in “yes”. The word consonant means a sound that goes with a vowel sound. In a phonics programme like Read Write Spell, it is important that consonants are given their PURE sound. For example, the sound represented by the consonant n is as in nut and not as in the last syllable of dinner. Like the letter m, it is a nasal sound.

Consonants at the end of base words are sometimes not or hardly heard when a suffix is added, as in commitment or handful.

Breve

Saucer-shaped mark above any vowel to indicate that it must be given its SHORT sound, e.g. a as in apple or i as in Indian. It is known as a diacritical mark and is used in dictionaries as an aid to correct pronunciation.

Macron

Straight line used above any vowel to indicate that it must be given its LONG sound, e.g. a as in acorn, i as in idea, o as in open.

This is another diacritical mark.

Syllable

A beat in a word. The word hip/po/pot/am/us has 5 syllables.

A closed syllable ends with one or more consonants. The vowel is SHORT e.g. pan.

An open syllable ends in a vowel. The vowel has a LONG sound e.g. pa (as in paper)

Syllable pattern

Words of two or more syllables have one of the following four syllable patterns:

• vowel, consonant / consonant, vowel (vc / cv) e.g. rascal

• vowel /consonant, vowel (v / cv) e.g. tiger

• vowel / vowel (v / v) e.g. lion

• vowel, consonant / vowel (vc / v) e.g. travel

Schwa sound

......as in the last syllable of the word dinner. The PURE sound of ALL the consonants does NOT include this sound.

Prefix

A prefix is a letter or letters added to the beginning of a word to change the way a word is used, e.g. over- in overtake, dis- in disengage.

Suffix

A suffix is a letter or letters added to the end of a base word to change the way the word is used. If you add the suffix ed to the base word act, you have acted (past tense). Other suffixes are s, es, less, ness, en, ing, ful, ly, ty, y, er, est, ment, ity.

Doubling rule

Doubling rule If a base word ends with a single vowel followed by a single consonant, e.g. set, double the last consonant before adding a vowel suffix, e.g. add –ing, to make the word setting.

Drop e rule

If a base word ends with a silent e, e.g. vote, drop the silent e before adding a vowel suffix, e.g. add –ing to make the word voting. Do not drop the final e if adding a consonant suffix, e.g. lately.

Change y rule

If a word ends with a y used as a vowel, change the y to i before any vowel suffix other than one that starts with i, e.g. happy, happier, happiest; try, trial, trying. Also, change y to i before adding a consonant suffix, e.g. happiness, beautiful.

Do not change the y to i if y is preceded by a vowel, e.g. donkeys, boys, plays.


Possible additions to this glossary

This glossary is not exhaustive.

Further English spelling rules are found here. If you have any suggestions for additions to this glossary, please contact me.