Early Reading Strategy

The Report of the Expert Panel on Early Reading in Ontario, 2003


achievement levels

Four possible levels of student achievement, as defined in the Ontario curriculum for each grade. Level 3, which is the "provincial standard", indicates a high level of achievement, or between B- and B+. Parents of students who are achieving at level 3 can be confident that their children are on track for the next grade. Levels 1 and 2 identify achievement that falls below the provincial standard. Level 4 identifies achievement that surpasses the standard.


Actualisation linguistique du français. A program for students who have a right to a French-language education, but who have little or no knowledge of French. Most ALF students speak English as a first language. (Also see PDF.)

animation culturelle

A philosophy and program to support student achievement in French-language schools by providing students with meaningful learning opportunities in French and a nurturing French-language environment that fosters the development of strong French-language skills and promotes a francophone cultural identity.


A process of gathering, recording, and analysing information about a child's knowledge and skills from a variety of sources and, where appropriate, providing descriptive feedback to guide the child's improvement. (Also see evaluation.)

at risk

Used in this document to mean students who may not meet the curriculum expectations for reading at their age or grade level.

Bloom's taxonomy

A widely used way of classifying educational objectives, developed in the 1950s by a group of researchers headed by Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago. It describes thinking skills as a hierarchy, with knowledge and memory as the entry point, followed progressively by comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

cloze procedure

In a cloze procedure the teacher produces a text in which some words have been deleted, and students attempt to insert suitable words. This technique is used to check the difficulty of a text or type of text, and to identify whether students will be able to read the text independently or will require instructional support.


The ability to draw meaning from spoken and written words.

comprehension strategies

Conscious plans that readers use to make sense of the text (e.g., by asking questions such as: "How does this connect with what I already know? What pictures does this text create in my mind? How can I say this in my own words?").

concepts about print

Awareness about how language is conveyed in print. These concepts include knowing and understanding the following: directionality (reading left to right, top to bottom); differences between letters and words (words are made of letters; there are spaces between words); capitalization; spelling patterns; punctuation; and common characteristics of books (title, author, front/back).


A variant of a language that may involve pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary that differs from the standard form of the language. Dialects are governed by rules, but the rules are different from those governing the standard form of a language.


In reading, the ability to sound out letters and words.

distributed leadership

An approach to sharing leadership among team members. In distributed leadership, team members share responsibility and authority, guided by a common vision or goal. A key role of the senior administrator is to involve the team in defining the shared vision, enable team members to develop their knowledge and skills, promote productive relationships among team members, and hold individuals accountable for their contributions to the collective effort. In this document, distributed leadership is also called "shared leadership".


English literacy development. Instruction for students who speak a variation of English that differs from standard English, and who need help to improve their skills in reading, writing, and oral communication. (Also see ESL. For the comparable French-language program, see PDF.)

emergent literacy

An early stage of literacy development in young children, characterized by a growing awareness of, and interest in, books and writing. Emergent readers and writers may, for example, "read" a book from memory, or "write" a message using scribbles, pictures, or approximations of letters. Children are most likely to demonstrate emergent literacy behaviours if others read to them, encourage them to talk about stories and events, and provide them with opportunities to explore books on their own.

environmental print

Words and symbols encountered outside of books in everyday life (e.g., product labels, logos, and traffic signs).


Education Quality and Accountability Office. An independent agency of the Ontario government that designs and implements a province-wide program of student assessment within government-established parameters. It reports to the Minister of Education, the public, and the education community on assessment and education issues, and makes recommendations for improvement.


Education Quality Indicators Program. A source of demographic and other environmental information to help teachers and administrators in their joint planning for school improvement. EQUIP data provide a context for examining and understanding student achievement scores. The program is operated by EQAO.


English as a second language. Instruction for students who have little or no fluency in English, designed to help them build their English-language proficiency. (Also see ELD. For the comparable French-language program, see ALF.)


A value judgement about the quality of a student's work at a point in time. (Also see assessment.)


Statements in the Ontario curriculum about the knowledge and skills that students are expected to learn and demonstrate in their class work and in the activities used to assess their achievement.


The ability to identify words accurately and read text quickly; the ability to read text aloud with good expression.


The smallest part of written language that represents a phoneme in the spelling of a word. A grapheme may be just one letter, such as b, d, f, p, s; or several letters, such as ch, sh, th, -ck, ea, -igh.

graphophonic cues

Visual information on the page, based on sound-symbol correspondences, that helps readers to decode text. Graphophonic cues occur within words and may include letter or sound relationships, word patterns, and words recognized by sight.

guided reading

A method of instruction in which the teacher works with a small group of students who have similar reading processes. The group composition changes as a result of teacher observation and assessment. The teacher selects the students, introduces them to a new book, and supports them through it.


See Individual Education Plan.

independent reading

A method of instruction in which students select familiar and unfamiliar texts to read by themselves or with a partner.

Individual Education Plan (IEP)

A plan that identifies a student's specific learning expectations and outlines how the school will address these expectations through appropriate special education programs and services. It also identifies the methods by which the student's progress will be reviewed.


For a student with special needs, targeted supportive instruction that follows diagnostic assessment.

lead literacy teacher

A teacher with extensive expertise in reading instruction and staff development. The lead literacy teacher's main goal is to improve reading achievement by working collaboratively with teachers to deepen their understanding of the reading process and extend their repertoire of instructional strategies. Lead teachers support principals in ensuring effective reading instruction throughout the school.

letter formation

The ability to print or write letters.

letter recognition

The ability to name a letter that is displayed, or find a letter in a group.

levelled texts

Reading material that has been sorted according to level of difficulty so that children and teachers can select texts at the child's current instructional reading level.


Having knowledge (cognition) and being able to understand it, have control over it, and make appropriate use of it. In short, being able to think about the thinking process and how to develop or improve it.

miscue analysis

A diagnostic technique in which a student reads a passage aloud and the teacher marks miscues on a copy of the passage, or tallies the errors. The results are then analysed by the teacher to plan instruction.


Perfectionnement du français. A program designed for students who speak a regional variation of French that is very different from standard French. These students are recent arrivals from other countries. Their schooling thus far has either been very different from the schooling in Franco-Ontarian schools, or has been disrupted. These students lack rudimentary skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. PDF also familiarizes the students with the Franco-Ontarian education system and with their new social and cultural environment. (Also see ALF. For the comparable English-language program, see ELD.)


The smallest part of spoken language that makes a difference in the meaning of words. English has about 44 phonemes. A few words, such as a or oh, have only one phoneme. Most words, however, have more than one phoneme. The word if has two phonemes (/i/ /f/); check has three phonemes (/ch/ /e/ /k/); and stop has four phonemes (/s/ /t/ /o/ /p/). Sometimes one phoneme is represented by more than one letter.

phonemic awareness

The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.


Instruction that teaches children the relationships between the letters (graphemes) of written language and the individual sounds (phonemes) of spoken language.

phonological awareness

A broad term that includes phonemic awareness. In addition to phonemes, phonological awareness activities can involve work with rhymes, words, syllables, and onsets of rimes.

picture cues

Story illustrations that are closely matched to the text so that a reader can refer to the picture for help if he or she has difficulty with an unknown word.


The understanding that context influences meaning. A reader with a strong grasp of pragmatics understands that a sentence can have different meanings depending on the situation or context in which it is used, including, for example, the tone of voice of a speaker. For example, a sentence can be a mere statement, an affirmation, a warning, a promise, or a threat.

primary division

Grades 1 to 3 in Ontario.

primary language

The first language a child learns to speak. This report uses the terms "first language" or "home language".

print awareness

Awareness of the rules of written language, such as knowing that letters and numbers convey meaning and that words are separated by spaces.

provincial standard

Level 3 of the four levels of achievement, as specified in the Ontario curriculum. Level 3 indicates a high level of achievement, or between B- and B+. (Also see achievement levels.)

reading strategies

Methods used in reading to determine the meaning of a text. Examples include substituting an appropriate familiar word for an unfamiliar one, and using root words to determine unfamiliar words. (See Ontario Ministry of Education, The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Language, 1997.)


The part of a syllable that contains the vowel and all that follows it. A rime is smaller than a syllable but larger than a phoneme. For example: bone and tone.


A scoring scale that provides a set of criteria for achievement and descriptions of levels of achievement, used to evaluate students' work or to guide students to desired performance levels. The rubric makes the scoring of student work more precise by providing clear descriptions of work at each of the levels of performance. (See achievement levels.)

running record

A method of observing, scoring, and analysing a child's reading aloud. A running record allows a teacher to record and then analyse reading behaviours.


Students' own assessment of their personal progress in knowledge, skills, or processes relative to the expectations in the curriculum.


The study of meaning in language, including the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences.

shared leadership

See distributed leadership.

shared reading

A method of instruction in which the teacher uses enlarged books or text that all students can see (such as overhead transparencies, commercial and class-made big books, pocket charts, posters, charts, and murals) so that the students can follow along as the teacher reads. The text is read several times, and students are encouraged to join in the reading.

sight word

A word that a child recognizes and reads instantly without having to sound it out.


A description of student performance that outlines a particular level of achievement of the curriculum expectations. In Ontario, level 3 is the provincial standard.


The smallest part that a word can be divided into that includes a vowel. For example, "watermelon" has four syllables: wa-ter-mel-on.


The way words are combined to form phrases, clauses, or sentences. The syntax of a language includes both classes of words (such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives) and their functions (such as subject and object).


The putting together of the constituent parts or elements to form a new whole.


Members of a school's community who may or may not be professionally qualified as teachers but who nevertheless offer their time to help teachers in schools and classes.

whole school approach

A process by which all members of a school (including students and parents) work together, drawing on their different perspectives and responsibilities, to achieve common goals.

word identification

The ability to read familiar words automatically. (See word knowledge.)

word knowledge

The ability to use word identification strategies to read partially familiar or unfamiliar words. (See word identification.)

word study

A method of instruction that gives children the opportunity to practise high-frequency words so that they can read them automatically (word identification), and to learn word-solving strategies so that they will be able to read partially familiar or unfamiliar words (word knowledge).

word wall

An alphabetic list of words, displayed prominently in the classroom, that teachers use to help children recognize high-frequency words when reading and spell those words correctly when writing.