What is a Denominator? (And Other Things Teachers Say)
No, this is not just a list of the latest curse words you might hear uttered by tired teachers in staff rooms around the world. I can only apologise if that’s what you came here for…
Seriously though, whilst working in schools and writing for this blog, I’ve realised that there are a lot of words that teachers say that parents just probably won’t have come across.
Or maybe you were taught them in school but it was so long ago (I’m not saying you’re old) that you’ve completely forgotten what they mean.
Has your child ever come home from school saying they need help finding all the adverbs in a paragraph?
Or that the need to underline the subordinate clauses?
Maybe they need to find the lowest common denominator?
If this sounds familiar – read on.
We’re the parents. We’re the ones who are supposed to know the stuff!
This is why I’ve made this glossary of primary teaching words.
To be a reference guide to help anyone who’s trying to support their children at home.
Whether it’s with their homework or just to help them learn more at home.
So the next time your child comes to you, homework book in hand, with a frustrated look upon their face, you can smile down upon them and confidently say “Circle the conjunctions – no problem!”
I hope you find this useful!
Things teachers Say
I’ve grouped the words alphabetically and into categories to make this easier to find what you are looking for. Some may fit into a few categories so I’ve just put them where I think’s best!
I’ve tried to give as many examples as I can. If you’re still not sure about something please comment below or contact me and I’ll try to help further!
If you’d like to download the Handy Homework Helper pdf booklet containing most of the things teachers say listed below (and also have access to any future freebies and printables) then click on the image below!
Phonics and Reading Related Words
Whilst writing the post What On Earth Is Phonics? (and can it actually help your child learn to read?), I realised that there are a lot of phonics related words that I’d never heard of before I started working in schools.
I’ve listed below the ones that we most commonly use in our lessons or in the planning and that your are most likely to come across when helping your children.
Blending – Is the ability to put the different sounds of a word together to be able to correctly say the word.
Comprehension – Is the understanding of what you are reading.
CVC Words – these are consonant, vowel, consonant word, for example, dog.
Decoding – Is using your knowledge of the letter-sound relationships to be able to correctly read a word.
Digraph – These have two letters making one sound. For example, ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’, ‘oo’, etc.
Encoding – is when you can hear a sound and write the grapheme for that sound.
Grapheme – Is a written letter or group of letters which make one sound (phoneme).
Inference – Is a conclusion that is reached using evidence and reasoning, often using your existing knowledge.
Phenome – Is the smallest unit of sound that makes up a word. It can be made by one or more letters. For example, cat has 3 phenomes ‘c’, ‘a’ and ‘t’, but so does boot ‘b’, ‘oo’ and ‘t’.
Phonemic Awareness – is the ability to recognise and manipulate the sounds in words. Its what’s taught in phonics lessons.
Phonics – Is a way of teaching children to read which involves matching the sounds of spoken English (phonemes) with the written letters (graphemes)
Pseudo/Alien/Nonsense Words – Are words which are not part of the English language and have no meaning. They are made to look like real words and are useful in seeing if children have learnt the sounds as they will not be able to sight read the word.
Sight Reading – Is when you can read a word by recognising it (by sight) without actually having to decode the word.
Sight / Tricky Words – are words that are hard to sound out so are normally just learnt by sight. Examples would be ‘the’, ‘go’ and ‘to’.
Synthesise – is another word for blending. The ability to put the different sounds of a word together to be able to correctly say the word.
Trigraph – These have three letters making one sound. For example, ‘igh’, ‘ear’, ‘air’, ‘ure’, etc.
Related If you’d like to have a go at teaching phonics to your kids at home I’ve created an easy to follow lesson (along with some handy printables) which you can check out here
Literacy and English Related Words That Teachers Say
These are words children will come across in their English lessons. There’s quite a lot of them.
I’m not a grammar expert so this is a rough guide for you to follow. I’ve probably missed a few important ones so feel free to let me know in the comments.
Active voice – this is when the subject of the sentence is performing the action. For example, the boy kicked the ball.
Adjective – is a word used to describe and give extra information about a noun. For example, the enormous elephant
Adverb – is a word that modifies a verb, it tells you how, when, where or why something is being done. They often (but don’t always) end in ‘ly’. For example, the butterfly flew gracefully.
Alliteration – is when the first sound or letter is closely repeated in words that follow. For example, the slow snake slithered silently.
Antonym – are words which have opposite meanings. For example, big and small.
Apostrophe – are punctuation marks used to show possession (the child’s toy) and to show contraction (do not – don’t)
Article – are words which tell us whether a noun is general or specific. There are three articles: ‘the‘ is a definite article and ‘a‘ and ‘an‘ are indefinite articles.
Clause – these are groups of words that contain a subject and a verb. Clauses can be main or subordinate.
Conjunctions – are joining words that link different parts of sentences. For example, and, but, so.
Connectives – is an umbrella term for any word that connects parts of a sentence. They can be conjunctions, prepositions or adverbs.
Ellipsis – is a punctuation mark that is written as three dots (…). It can be used to show a pause to increase tension or an unfinished thought. It’s also used when a writer leaves out a part of a text, without changing the text’s meaning.
Embedded clause – is a clause used in the middle of another clause. It is usually marked by commas. An embedded clause would not make sense on its own. For example, my car, which was very old, broke down.
Figurative language – uses words and ideas to suggest meaning. This could be a metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole and onomatopoeia or a combination.
Fronted adverbials – are words or phrases at the beginning of a sentence, which describe the action that follows. For example, As quick as a flash, the hare jumped the fence and was away.
Homophone – these are words that sound the same but have different meanings. Some are spelt the same and some are spelt differently. For example, knight and night, or pair and pear.
Imperative / Bossy verbs – tell someone to do something. They are used in orders and instruction texts. They are often seen at the beginning of sentences. For Example, peel the potatoes.
Metaphor – is a comparison which is not literally true. It describes something as if it was something else with similar characteristics. For example, my brother is a monster.
Noun – is a word that is used to name something. It is a thing, a person, an animal or a place. A common noun would be table, boy, car etc. A proper noun starts with a capital letter and names a specific person, place or thing. For example, John or Paris
Object – is the thing or person that is involved in an action, but is not the one that does the action. For example, the elephant stood on the mouse.
Onomatopoeia – is a word that names and sounds like a sound. For example, boom, whizz, babbling, crack, etc.
Passive voice – is when the subject of the sentence has something done to it by someone or something else. For example, the mouse was stood on by the elephant.
Personification – is a type of figurative language which gives something non-human human characteristics. For example, lightning danced across the sky.
Prefix – is a group of letters added to the start of a word, which changes its meaning. For example, try – retry.
Preposition – is a linking word in a sentence. We use them to explain where things are in time or space. For example, the boy is on the bus, the man arrived before the woman.
Pronoun – is a word which can replace a noun. For example, he, she, it, they.
Relative clause – is a type of subordinate clause that describes or changes a noun by using a relative pronoun (who, that, when, where or which). They normally describe or identify the noun that was before them. For example, that’s the dog which barked up the wrong tree, Matthew, who ate all the pies, was told off by his nan.
Root word – is the basic form of a word which has no prefix or suffix added to it.
Simile – is a phrase which compares similar characteristics in two objects. They always use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. For example, the boy was as light as a feather.
Subject – is the object or person who is carrying out an action described by a verb For example, the frog jumped from the lilypad.
Subordinate clause – is a clause which needs to be attached to a main clause as it does not make sense on its own. They contain a subject and a verb. For example, Since starting school, little Tommy has got so much noisier.
Suffix – is a group of letters that are added to the end of a word and change its meaning. For example, fly – flying.
Synonym – are words with the same or similar meanings. For example, big, large, enormous, gigantic, etc.
Time connectives – are words or phrases which tell the reader when something is happening. For example, before, after, firstly, etc.
Verbs – are often described as action or doing words in schools. They describe an action. For example, run, walk, eat, have, play, etc.
Maths Related Words
< and > symbols – These are the greater than (>) and less than (<) symbols. They are used when comparing numbers to show which one is the biggest or smallest. We often say to the children that the crocodile wants to eat the biggest number, so his open mouth faces the largest number. For example, 10 > 3. If the two numbers are the same you can use the equals symbol.
Acute angle – is any angle that measures less than 90˚. (‘Aww it’s a cute angle’)
Area – is the amount of flat space in a 2D shape. It’s measured in square units (cm², m² km²).
Array – is a picture of rows of dots (or other symbols), to help children understand multiplication and times tables. For example, if the question was 2 X 10 you could draw 2 rows with 10 dots in each. The children would then be able to easily count these to find an answer.
Average – is a ‘central’ value of a set of numbers. It is calculated by adding all the numbers together and dividing by the number of numbers. For example, if you needed to find the average for the set of numbers 5, 7 and 9, you’d add them together to get 21 and divide that number by 3 (because we had 3 numbers in our set) to get 7.
Axes – is the plural form of axis and are the horizontal and vertical lines on a graph.
Capacity – is the total amount of something that can be held in a something else. It is the word we use when we are measuring liquids (in litres or millilitres).
Circumference – is the measurement around the outside edge of a circle.
Common denominator – is when two or more fractions have the same denominator
Cube number – is calculated by multiplying a number by itself and then by itself again. When writing cube numbers we put a small 3 next to and above the number, for example: 2³. For example the cube of 2 is 2 x 2 x 2. So, 2 X 2 = 4 X 2 = 8 so 2³ = 8.
Denominator – is the bottom number of a fraction. It shows how many parts the item has been divided into.
Diameter – is the straight line going through the centre of a circle. It connects two points on the circumference.
Equilateral triangle – is a triangle which has three equal sides and three equal angles.
Estimate – is having a really good guess based on the information you have available.
Equivalent fractions – is when two fractions are the same in terms of shape and size, but are written using different numbers (for example, 1/2 is equivalent to 2/4 or 3/6).
Fraction – tells us how many parts of a whole we have.
Improper fraction / top-heavy fraction – is a fraction where the numerator is bigger than the denominator, for example 8/4.
Inverse operations – are opposite operations – one that is the reverse of the other. For example, subtraction is the inverse of addition and division is the inverse of multiplication. These can often be used for checking answers.
Isosceles triangle – is a triangle which has two equal sides and two equal angles.
Lowest common denominator – is the smallest number that is divisible by each denominator in a set of fractions. (there’s a good video you can check out here regarding how to find common denominators).
Median – is the middle number in a list of numbers when they are ordered from smallest to largest. For example, the median of these numbers 3, 4, 7, 9, 11, is 7.
Mixed number – is a number that is made up of a whole number and a fraction. For example 8 2/5.
Mode – is the number that appears most often in a group of numbers.
Multiple – is a number that can be divided by another number without leaving a remainder. For example, in the number sentence 5 x 6 = 30, 30 is a multiple of both 5 and 6.
Number bonds – are the pairs of numbers that you can add together to make a certain number. For example, the number bonds to 10 are 1 + 9, 2 + 8, 3 + 7, 4 + 6, 5 + 5.
Numerator – is the top number of a fraction. It tells us how many parts we have.
Obtuse angle – is any angle that measures between 90˚ and 180˚.
Perimeter – is the distance around the edge of a 2D shape.
Perpendicular – is when two lines are at right angles to each other.
Place value – is the value of each digit in a number. It teaches children to understand that 627 is made up of a 600, a 20 and a 7, rather than just the numbers 6, 2 and 7 put together.
Prime number – is a number that is bigger than 1 and cannot be divided evenly by any number other than 1 or itself. For example, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11.
Radius – is the distance from the centre of a circle to the edge of the circle. It’s half of the diameter.
Range – is the difference between the lowest number and the highest number in a group of numbers. For example, in the number set 3,7,9,11, and 14, the range is the difference between 3 and 14. So 14-3 = 11. The range is 11.
Reflex angle – is any angle that measures between 180˚ and 360˚.
Right angle – is an angle that measures 90˚.
Right-angled triangle – is a triangle with an angle that measures 90º.
Scalene triangle – is a triangle which has all unequal sides.
Square number – is calculated by multiplying a number by itself. When writing square numbers we put a small 2 next to and above the number, for example: 2². For example the square of 2 is 2 x 2. So, 2 X 2 = 4, 2² = 4.
Simplifying fractions – A fraction is in simplest form when the numerator and denominator cannot be made any smaller. For example: 2/4 can be simplified to 1/2. To simplify a fraction, you need to divide the top and bottom by the greatest number that will divide both numbers exactly.
Subitize – is to quickly recognise, by looking at a group of things, how many there are. We often do this when playing with dice. We can tell straight away when we roll a six without having to count the dots (pips).
Vertex / vertices – are the points where two or more edges meet in a 3D shape. We sometimes help the children remember this because a ‘v’ (for vertices) looks like two edges meeting.
A Few Other Things Teachers Say
Adult led learning – this is where activities are carefully planned with the idea of developing a child’s particular skill or area of understanding. An adult acts as a guide during the activity.
Child-led learning – is where children are free to explore and play with what they like with no end-goals which are set by adults. In my opinion, the best way young children learn.
Curriculum – is the lessons and the content that will be taught in a school.
Flash Card – is a card with just a little information on it and possibly some pictures. They are used to help children remember things.
Mark Making – is when children create patterns, lines or any marks. It could be on any medium. From paper to sand and mud. With paint, crayons or just their fingers. It often happens before a child can write.
Talk partner – are pairs of children who discuss something in the classroom. It’s a technique commonly used in primary-school classrooms to keep children engaged and get them thinking.
Final Thoughts on Things Teachers Say
Right, there we have it then!
There’s definitely a lot of teacher jargon used in lessons and homework these days so hopefully these definitions can help you out.
If there’s anything I’ve missed or you’d like to know more about please leave me a comment below.
I have also written a fairly comprehensive guide to parenting phrases and styles, which you might also want to check out.
As always, if you found this useful please share using the buttons below and if you’d like to join the Nurtured Neurons family and be kept up to date with the latest articles and scientifically backed parenting tips (as well as getting access to the Handy Homework Helper) then please subscribe.
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