Dictionary of Educational Jargon

From "ability groupings" to "wait time," we've got you covered!

If you are confused about all the different terms you have come across while preparing for (or starting!) a teaching job, this glossary will help you understand the jargon of your new profession. New teachers will find this resource particularly valuable.
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Dictionary A-L


magnet school  A school that specializes in a specific subject area.

manipulatives  Physical materials such as cubes, blocks, or balls that model mathematical concepts.

memory  The way we recall previously learned or previously experienced information.

mental imagery  Creating pictures or images in one's own mind.

mentor  An experienced teacher who assists a new colleague.

methodology  The way(s) in which information is shared with students.

methods courses  Teacher preparation courses that focus on the methods, ways, procedures, or strategies of teaching (the “how-to's” of teaching).

modification  Changes in the instruction, course content, or outcomes for special needs students.

motivation  An emotion or psychological need that incites a person to do something.

motivational opening  An initial activity or motivational devise in a lesson designed to get students' attention or tap into their background knowledge.

MP3  Moving Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3. This is an audio compression technology that provides high-quality sound in a very limited space.

multimedia  A combination of technologies to create an instructional program or experience for students.

multiple intelligences  A theory that postulates that human beings have eight separate intelligences (rather than a single IQ score) that determine how they learn.

musical-rhythmic intelligence  Sensitivity to the pitch, timbre, and rhythm of sounds and the elements of music.


naturalistic intelligence  The ability of individuals to recognize plants and animal lives and to have an appreciation for nature.

neural forest  The connections that occur between brain cells. The more connections, the thicker the neural forest; the thicker the neural forest, the more we know about a specific topic.

neuron  A brain cell.


objective  A statement that describes what students will be able to do upon completion of an instructional experience.

originality  The creation of singular and unique ideas.


paraprofessional  An individual (usually uncertified) who works with a teacher in a classroom setting.

parent-teacher conference  A face-to-face meeting between a teacher and one or both parents (or guardians) of a student to discuss the student's academic performance and any concerns either party might have.

performance  The ability to effectively use new information in a productive manner.

performance assessment  When students demonstrate their mastery of material through a “hands-on activity” (assembling an electrical circuit, for example).

performance standards  Statements that describe what it will take for a student to demonstrate mastery of a standard.

phonemic awareness  A recognition that spoken words are composed of several individual sounds.

phonics  A recognition of sound-spelling relationships in printed words.

planning time  Time during the day when a teacher does not have students and can plan lessons and other activities.

portfolio assessment  A collection of materials designed to demonstrate progress over time.

praise  Verbal comments that recognize individual students.

prediction  An educated guess about something that may happen in the future.

prior knowledge  The knowledge a learner already has about a topic or subject. It is the past knowledge a learner brings to a new learning situation.

probing  A series of teacher statements or questions that encourage students to elaborate on their answers to previous questions.

problem-solving  The ability to identify and solve problems by applying appropriate skills systematically.

process evaluation  The way students go about learning. It may or may not be related to what they learned.

product evaluation  A formal test that occurs at the end of a lesson or lessons.

project assessment  When students design a project that illustrates a specific principle (science fair projects, for example).

prompting  Assisting students in thinking beyond their response to a question.


realia  Three-dimensional objects used for instruction.

reduced lunch  A meal that is partially subsidized by government funds.

remediation  A teacher comment that helps students reach a more accurate or higher-level response.

round robin  A small group setting in which each student shares information.

routines  Ways of managing the classroom; an established set of expectations.

rubric  A document that describes varying levels of performance (from high to low) for a specific assignment.

rule of two-thirds  In a traditional classroom, 23 of class time is taken up by talking, 23 of that time is taken up by teacher talk, and 23 of the teacher talk is telling or disciplining.


search engine  A computer program designed to find websites based on keywords you enter.

second language learners  Students whose primary language is not English. They are learning English as their second language.

secondary teachers  Those teachers who teach in grades 7 through 12 (in most states).

section 504  A civil rights law that requires that institutions not discriminate against people with disabilities.

simulation  An activity in which students are given real-life problem-solving situations. The emphasis is on student decision-making.

specials  Classes usually designated as nonacademic. They typically include art class, P.E., library time, and music class.

standards  A description of what students should know or be able to do.

standards-based teaching  When teachers use activities and lessons to ensure that students master a predetermined set of requirements or standards.

stimulus  An event that causes something else to happen or take place.

stress  What people experience when a situation challenges their ability to effectively cope.

stressor  An event, circumstance, or situation that causes stress.

summative evaluation  Evaluation that occurs at the end of a unit of study.

synapse  The place where electrical and chemical connections are made between one brain cell and another.

synthesis  The combination of knowledge elements that form a new whole.

systems analysis  Analyzing the parts of a system and the manner in which they interact.


task orientation  The degree to which a teacher provides learning opportunities (as opposed to dealing with management issues) for students.

taxonomy  An orderly classification of items according to various levels (low to high, small to large).

teacher burnout  The time in a teacher's life when the demands and expectations of the job exceed one's perceived ability to accomplish them.

teacher's guide  A supplement to a textbook which includes a collection of teaching materials, lessons, ideas, and activities to help you teach the subject.

textbook  A collection of the knowledge, concepts, and principles of a selected topic or course.


verbal-linguistic intelligence  The ability to use and produce language effectively.

visual-spatial intelligence  The ability to create visual images in the form of drawings, designs, maps, puzzles, mazes, and other creative items.


wait time  The time between the asking of a question and the solicitation of a response.

Excerpted from

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Success as a Teacher
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Success as a Teacher
Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Success as a Teacher © 2005 by Anthony D. Fredericks. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.
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