Key Terms & Definitions

The below list of terms and phrases are commonly used when discussing learning differences and the instruction of students with learning differences.

Definitions are from the National Center for Learning Disabilities and LD Online.

Accommodation


A shift or change in the ongoing method of instruction in order to facilitate student success




Alphabetic principle


Understanding the basic idea that language is a code in which letters represent the sounds in spoken words




Aphasia


The inability to comprehend or produce spoken or written language




Assessment


The process of gathering information to help an individual make decisions; in education, the information gathered should help a teacher make decisions about appropriate instructional goals, objectives, teaching methods, curriculum, and program placement.




Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)


A disorder characterized by severe and persistent difficulties in one or more of the following areas: attention, impulsivity, and motor behavior; these difficulties can lead to learning and behavior problems at home, school, and work.




Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


ADD with hyperactivity, or excessive and exaggerated motor activity




Auditory discrimination


Ability to detect differences in sounds; may be gross ability, such as detecting differences between noises by a cat and dog, or fine ability, such as detecting the differences made by the sounds of letters like “m” and “n”




Auditory figure ground


Ability to attend to one sound against a background of sounds (e.g. hearing the teacher’s voice against classroom noise)




Auditory memory


Ability to retain information that has been presented orally




Auditory processing


The ability to accurately process and interpret sound information, e.g. subtle differences between sounds in words




Automaticity


The ability to perform any skilled and complex behavior rather easily with little attention, effort, or conscious awareness




Basal reading series


Published comprehensive classroom reading programs that have daily plans for teaching reading and include stories, comprehension questions, activities, teaching strategies, worksheets, tests, scope and sequence charts of reading skills, etc.




Connected instruction


A way of teaching systematically in which the teacher continually shows and discusses with the students the relationship between what has been learned, what is being learned, and what will be learned




Continuous assessment


An element of responsive instruction in which the teacher regularly monitors student performance to determine how closely it matches the instructional goal; ideally, these checks of student performance should occur after as many practice sessions as possible.




Curriculum-based assessment


A type of informal assessment in which the procedures directly assess student performance in learning targeted content in order to make decisions about how to better address a student's instructional needs




Decoding


The ability to translate a word from print to speech




Dyscalculia


A severe difficulty understanding and using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics




Dysgraphia


A severe processing difficulty producing handwriting that is not legible and written at an age-appropriate speed




Dyslexia (specific developmental dyslexia)


A type of learning disability; under Federal law, a specific language-based disorder characterized by problems in learning to read, write, and spell




Dysnomia


Marked difficulty in remembering names or recalling words needed for oral and/or written language




Dyspraxia


Difficulty planning and completing intended fine motor tasks or sequencing the necessary movements




Elaborated feedback


An element of responsive instruction in which the results of student performance on a practice task are shared with the student to help him/her understand what was done correctly and what specific things need to be targeted for improvement during the next practice exercise




Executive Functioning


The ability to organize cognitive processes, such as planning ahead, prioritizing, stopping and starting activities, shifting from one activity to another, and monitoring one’s behavior




Explicit instruction


Instruction that is fully developed, completely and clearly expressed in detail, and places no burden on the learner to "fill in the gaps" caused by ambiguity or vagueness




Expressive language


The aspect of spoken language that includes speaking and the aspect of written language that includes composing or writing; receptive language, on the other hand, includes listening to spoken language and reading written language.




Expressive language (Oral)


The ability to formulate responses orally to what is heard or read




Expressive language (Written)


The ability to use written expression to clarify intent




Fluency (reading)


The ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with proper expression and comprehension




Fluency (math)


The ability to be fluid and flexible with numbers, the sense of what numbers mean, and an ability to perform mental computations




Formal assessment


Process of gathering information using standardized, published tests or instruments in conjunction with specific administration and interpretation procedures; an example of a formal assessment is a norm-referenced test. The results of norm-referenced tests or other formal assessments are used to make general instructional decisions.




High engagement


An element of intensive instruction in which each instructional moment is maximized through the use of activities that keep the students' attention focused on critical learning outcomes.




Informal assessment


Process of collecting information to make specific instructional decisions; the information gathered is based on procedures largely designed by teachers and based on the current instructional situation. Example: A teacher might prepare a short quiz over vocabulary related to a current science unit. Results of the quiz would guide the extent to which the teacher would review material in class.




Informative instruction


A way of teaching systematically in which the teacher ensures that the student understands how they are learning, how they can plan and control their own learning at each step of the learning process, and why this is important




Instructional accommodation


An element of responsive instruction in which changes in instructional groupings, materials, or teaching techniques are made to increase student performance; instructional accommodations should be made based on the unique information-processing characteristics of the students being taught.




Intensive instruction


A way of directing student attention in which sufficient time is spent in teacher-guided interactive learning activities characterized by a high degree of goal-directed student engagement that leads to student mastery and generalization.




Intervention


The interference with an unsatisfactory course or level of learning or behavior by introducing an element designed to move learning and behavior to a more satisfactory course or level




Language processing


Processing and making sense of what the ear hears




Learning strategy


A person's approach to a learning task, which includes how a person thinks and acts when planning, executing, and evaluating performance on a task and its outcomes




Listening comprehension


Understanding speech; lower levels of listening comprehension would include understanding the facts explicitly stated in a spoken passage that is simple. Advanced levels include implicit understanding and drawing inferences from more complex spoken passages.




Long term memory


Recalling information presented more than a minute before




Naming speed


Rate at which a child can recite “overlearned” stimuli, such as letters and single-digit numbers




Nonverbal learning disability


Great difficulty with problem solving that does not involve written or spoken language; struggles staying organized in terms of time and space while having (at least on the surface) good language skills




Occupational therapist


A professional who helps people develop or regain skills which are absent because of physical injury, birth defects, aging, or emotional or developmental problems, through purposeful and meaningful activity




Off-task


Doing or paying attention to something that is not related to the instructional goal that has been established




Oral language difficulty


A person with oral language difficulties may exhibit poor vocabulary, listening comprehension, or grammatical abilities for their age




Paraphrasing


A learning strategy that involves the learner taking information from reading or listening and rephrasing the information in his or her own words in a way that personalizes the information and facilitates understanding and remembering




Phoneme


The smallest unit of speech that serves to distinguish one utterance from another in a language or dialect, as in the |b| in bat and the |m| in mat; English is made up of 44 phonemes.




Phonemic awareness


The ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words




Phonological Awareness


A range of understandings that is related to the sounds of words and word parts, including rhyming and syllabication




Physical therapist


Professional who treats physical disorders with physical and/or mechanical means, such as massage, exercise, water, light, heat, etc.




Prediction


A learning strategy that involves taking information gained from listening or reading, identifying questions that emerge, and then guessing the answers before the answers are apparent; prediction can facilitate understanding and remembering.




Print awareness


Basic knowledge about print and how it is typically organized on a page




Probe


A type of informal assessment embedded in the instructional process used to check progress toward meeting an instructional goal; it is often quick and can be thought of as a question embedded during an explanation or model to monitor comprehension or a careful examination of the product of student work from a regular practice activity.




Reading comprehension


Understanding what is read by reading actively (making sense from text) and with purpose (for learning, understanding, and enjoyment)




Receptive language


The aspect of spoken language that includes listening and the aspect of written language that includes reading




Responsive instruction


A way of making teaching decisions in which a student's reaction to instruction directly shapes how future instruction is provided




Scaffolded instruction


A way of teaching systematically in which the teacher provides to students, early in the learning process, a significant amount of support in the form of modeling, prompts, direct explanations, and targeted questions; instruction during this phase is primarily teacher-guided. As students begin to acquire mastery of the targeted objectives, direct teacher supports are reduced, and the major responsibility for learning is transferred to the student. When students assume more responsibility, it is referred to as student-guided learning.




Self-questioning


A learning strategy that involves identifying cues from information heard or read that make a learner wonder about who, what, when, where, which, and why and ask personalized questions that relate to the information; the learner then reads to find the answers to these questions. This strategy can facilitate understanding and remembering.




Sequential memory


Recalling a series of information in proper order




Short term memory


Recalling information presented several seconds before




Sight word recognition


The ability to recognize words without sounding them out




Structural analysis


The ability to use roots, prefixes, and suffixes to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words




Structured instruction


A way of teaching systematically in which information to be learned is chunked into smaller segments or steps and sequentially taught through a process that involves direct explanation, modeling, and practice




Sufficient time


An element of intensive instruction in which interactive teaching and learning experiences are sustained until the critical information has been mastered, maintained, and generalized by the student




Summarizing


A learning strategy that involves concisely restating the main ideas of sections of reading or listening tasks that involve units of information greater than a single paragraph; for example, you would summarize the main ideas of an entire lesson, a story, or a section of history textbook to facilitate understanding and remembering.




Systematic instruction


A way of organizing learning experiences so that both the teacher and the student follow and continuously review a dynamic plan related to how new content will be learned and how that new content relates to past and future learning




Visual closure


The ability to identify or recognize a symbol or object when the entire object is not visible




Visual memory


The ability to retrieve a mental representation of the object being viewed or make the connection between the mental representation and the object itself




Visual spatial processing


The ability to accurately perceive objects in space with reference to other objects




Word attack


Using intentional strategies for decoding, reading sight words, and/or recognizing written words




Word recognition


The ability to identify and read a word and understand its meaning




Working memory


The ability to store and manage information in one’s mind for a short period of time (e.g. listening to and repeating a phone number)




Implicit instruction


Instruction that lies heavily on student-directed learning. The learner is able to understand what is being taught even though it is not directly expressed; example: It might be obvious to students during a discussion of world events prior to WWII that these events were key factors causing the war, although the teacher never explicitly expressed such a statement. The understanding that the causes of WWII were being discussed was an implicit part of the instruction.




Strategic


Relating to the use of knowledge of personal resources to meet the demands of a task in a way that gets the task done in the most effective and efficient manner




Visual discrimination


The ability to differentiate objects/symbols based on their individual characteristics





 

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