Academic Vocabulary

Academic Terms – 

These are words we will learn and understand throughout the year in English Language Arts (reading and writing). Often times students know what the concept is or how to use the skill, but forget the term. This resource is to help talk about those skills and concepts at home.


adjective Word that describes a noun or a pronoun (tall, three, etc.)
adverb Word that describes a verb, and adjective, or another adverb (gently, easily, very)
antonym A word that means the opposite of another word (hot—cold, soft—hard)
compound word Bigger word that is made up of two smaller words (popcorn, sidewalk)
contraction Two words become one. An apostrophe marks the missing letters that make up the second word. (Won’t is an exception. It means, “will not”. Other contractions include can’t, you’ve, we’re…)
homonyms Means “same name”. Includes homographs (same writing) and homophones (same sound).   Words with the same spelling OR the same sound are homonyms. (read and read OR plain and plane)
noun Word that names a person, place, thing, or an idea.   (Bill, office, pencil, thought)
plural Word that refers to more than one person, place, thing or idea (children, schools, books, ideas)
possessive Word that shows ownership (Cindy’s dog, the boys’ club)
pronoun Words used in the place of nouns (I, we, he, she, it, us, her….)
syllable PART of a word. When you clap out a word, it’s the part you clap. Every syllable has a vowel sound.
synonym Word that means the same or almost the same as another word   (happy and glad, large and big)
Verb Word that expresses an action or state of being (run, is)

*Literary Devices*

alliteration A poetic sound created by using several words that begin with the same consonant sound (The brilliant colored bugs boogied in the dark.)
imagery Words and sentences that make a picture in your mind (The golden leaves shimmered in the wind.)
literary device The use of language to create a particular effect or sound when read aloud
metaphor Comparing something or someone with words that are not meant to be literal (She was an angry lion when she saw him cheat.)
onomatopoeia Words that imitate sounds (Hiss! Buzz, Brrring!)
simile A comparison using the words “like” or “as” (He was as white as a ghost.)
rhythm When a poem is read, especially one that rhymes, it has a beat, a rhythm. It’s like singing a song without the melody.
rhyme Words that have the same ending sounds (bat, hat, cat)

*Text Features-nonfiction*

captions A short description about a picture
charts A diagram or table that shows detailed information
font styles The design and size of the typing in a text. (bolded words, italicized words, larger words, colored words)
format styles The way that a page is organized and arranged
headings The title for a paragraph, section or page
table of contents The part of the book that names the chapters or sections in the book. Page numbers are listed to show where the section begins.

*Text Features-fiction*

character The person, animal, or creature in a story. A character is usually a part of the plot.
plot Events in a story…usually involves a problem and a solution
point of view First person: The narrator is telling about himself/herself (I)

Second person: The narrator is talking to YOU, the reader.

Third person: The narrator is telling about someone else. (He…She…They….)

setting The time and place of a story.


biography The story of someone’s life as told by someone else
fantasy Has impossible things like animals talking. Magic is often a part of fantasy
fiction A big group of text that includes realistic fiction, historical fiction, fantasy and others. Fiction is made up.
fictional narrative A story that someone made up
folktale A traditional story, legend, myth, fable that has been retold by one generation to another.
historical fiction A story of past events and characters. The story happened long ago.
informational text NOT a story. Information is given about a topic.   You will often see headings, charts, tables, graphs and pictures with captions.
nonfiction A big group of text that includes: biography, instructions, personal narratives, informational text and others. Nonfiction is true information, not made up.
realistic fiction The events and characters are realistic, but they are made up—they did not really happen.

*Text Structure (ways that authors organize information in nonfiction text)*

cause/effect Text tells why things happen and what happens as a result
description Details that give sight, sounds, and smells. Something is described in detail.
sequence The order in which events happen.
compare/contrast Two or more things are compared. Differences may be pointed out as well.

* “Other” *

categories A group of words that are grouped together because of common characteristics or meanings.
author’s purpose The reason the author wrote the passage. There may be more than one reason but the main reason can be figured out from the genre.

  • Instructions—to explain how to do something
  • Fictional narratives—to entertain with a story about…
  • Informational text and most nonfiction text—to give readers information about….
  • Persuasive Essays or Advertisements or Articles that ask the reader to take an action—to persuade the reader to….
author’s point of view or perspective The author’s opinion or attitude about a situation or the facts presented in the text

Also, the point of view in which the text is being told:

  • 1st Person – there is a character in the text telling the story, you will read the character say “I, we, me, us”.
  • 2nd Person – the author is talking directly to the reader, generally used in instructional or persuasive writing.
  • 3rd Person – the narrator is outside the story. You will read the story told as he, she, they, them, his, her, etc.
context clues The words, phrases or sentences that come before or after the word that give you clues about the word’s meaning.