Glossary of Digital and Reading and critical thinking Terms

The Language of Digital and digital reading – Some Commonly Used Terms


Accurate: Free from errors, mistakes, or distortion. Correct connotes little more than absence of error; accurate implies a positive exercise of one to obtain conformity with fact or truth; exact stresses perfect conformity to fact, truth, or some standard; precise suggests minute accuracy of detail. Accuracy is an important goal in critical thinking, though it is almost always a matter of degree. It is also important to recognize that making mistakes is an essential part of learning and that it is far better that students make their own mistakes, than that they parrot the thinking of the text or teacher. 

Affixes are word parts that are “fixed to” either the beginnings of words (prefixes) or the ending of words (suffixes). The word disrespectful has two affixes, a prefix (dis-) and a suffix (-ful).

Answering questions
Effective question-answering instruction shows students how to recognize what kinds of information is needed to answer questions. For example, students might learn that some questions require the synthesis of information from across a text.

Analyze: To break up a whole into its parts, to examine in detail so as to determine the nature of, to look more deeply into an issue or situation. All learning presupposes some analysis of what we are learning, if only by categorizing or labeling things in one way rather than another. Students should continually be asked to analyze their ideas, claims, experiences, interpretations, judgments, and theories and those they hear and read. See elements of thought.

 Argument: A reason or reasons offered for or against something, the offering of such reasons. This term refers to a discussion in which there is disagreement and suggests the use of logic and the bringing forth of facts to support or refute a point. See argue.


Base words
Base words are words from which many other words are formed. For example, many words can be formed from the base word migrate: migration, migrant, immigration, immigrant, migrating, migratory.


Comprehension strategies
Comprehension strategies are conscious plans or sets of steps that good readers use to make sense of text. There are six strategies that have been found to have a solid scientific basis for improving text comprehension. (See text comprehension.)

critical person: One who has mastered a range of intellectual skills and abilities. If that person generally uses those skills to advance his or her own selfish interests, that person is a critical thinker only in a weak or qualified sense. If that person generally uses those skills fairmindedly, entering empathically into the points of view of others, he or she is a critical thinker in the strong or fullest sense. See critical thinking.

critical reading: Critical reading is an active, intellectually engaged process in which the reader participates in an inner dialogue with the writer. Most people read uncritically and so miss some part of what is expressed while distorting other parts. A critical reader realizes the way in which reading, by its very nature, means entering into a point of view other than our own, the point of view of the writer. A critical reader actively looks for assumptions, key concepts and ideas, reasons and justifications, supporting examples, parallel experiences.


critical thinking:


1) Disciplined, self-directed thinking which exemplifies the perfections of thinking appropriate to a particular mode or domain of thinking.

2) Thinking that displays mastery of intellectual skills and abilities.

3) The art of thinking about your thinking while you are thinking in order to make your thinking better: more clear, more accurate, or more defensible. Critical thinking can be distinguished into two forms: “selfish” or “sophistic”, on the one hand, and “fairminded”, on the other. In thinking critically we use our command of the elements of thinking to adjust our thinking successfully to the logical demands of a type or mode of thinking. See critical person, critical society, critical reading, critical listening, critical writing, perfections of thought, elements of thought, domains of thought, intellectual virtues.


Critical writing: To express ourselves in language requires that we arrange our ideas in some relationships to each other. When accuracy and truth are at issue, then we must understand what our thesis is, how we can support it, how we can elaborate it to make it intelligible to others, what objections can be raised to it from other points of view, what the limitations are to our point of view, and so forth. Disciplined writing requires disciplined thinking; disciplined thinking is achieved through disciplined writing. See critical listening, critical reading, logic of language.




Direct vocabulary learning
Direct vocabulary learning is when students learn vocabulary through explicit instruction in both the meanings of individual words and word-learning strategies. Direct vocabulary instruction aids reading comprehension.


Embedded phonics
In this approach, children learn vocabulary through explicit instruction on the letter-sound relationships during the reading of connected text, 

Egocentricity: A tendency to view everything in relationship to oneself; to confuse immediate perception (how things seem) with reality. One’s desires, values, and beliefs (seeming to be self-evidently correct or superior to those of others) are often uncritically used as the norm of all judgment and experience. Egocentricity is one of the fundamental impediments to critical thinking. As one learns to think critically in a strong sense, one learns to become more rational, and less egocentric. See human nature, strong sense critical thinker, ethnocentrism, sociocentrism, personal contradiction.


Elements of thought: All thought has a universal set of elements, each of which can be monitored for possible problems: Are we clear about our purpose or goal? about the problem or question at issue? about our point of view or frame of reference? about our assumptions? about the claims we are making? about the reasons or evidence upon which we are basing our claims? about our inferences and line of reasoning? about the implications and consequences that follow from our reasoning? Critical thinkers develop skills of identifying and assessing these elements in their thinking and in the thinking of others.


Evaluation: To judge or determine the worth or quality of.  Evaluation has a logic and should be carefully distinguished from mere subjective preference. The elements of its logic may be put in the form of questions which may be asked whenever an evaluation is to be carried out:

1) Are we clear about what precisely we are evaluating?
2) Are we clear about our purpose? Is our purpose legitimate?
3) Given our purpose, what are the relevant criteria or standards for evaluation? 
4) Do we have sufficient information about that which we are evaluating? Is that information relevant to the purpose?
5) Have we applied our criteria accurately and fairly to the facts as we know them? Uncritical thinkers often treat evaluation as mere preference or treat their evaluative judgments as direct observations not admitting of error.


Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with proper expression and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the text means.



Generating questions
Generating questions involves teaching students to ask their own questions. This strategy improves students’ active processing of text and comprehension. For example, a student might be taught to ask main idea questions that relate to important information in a text.


Human–Computer Interaction

 Human–Computer Interaction (HCI) is the study of the way in which computer technology influences human work and activities. The term “computer technology” now-a-days includes most technology from obvious computers with screens and keyboards to mobile phones, household appliances, in-car navigation systems and even embedded sensors and actuators such as automatic lighting. HCI has an associated design discipline, sometimes called Interaction Design or User-Centered Design, focused on how to design computer technology so that it is as easy and pleasant to use as possible. A key aspect of the design discipline is the notion of “usability,” which is often defined in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction. However, equally or more important in systems designed for personal use…


Indirect vocabulary learning
Indirect vocabulary learning refers to students learning the meaning of words indirectly when they hear or see the words used in many different contexts – for example, through conversations with adults, through being read to, and through reading extensively on their own.



1) Lacking the power to reason.

2) Contrary to reason or logic.

3) Senseless, absurd. Uncritical thinkers have failed to develop the ability or power to reason well. Their beliefs and practices, then, are often contrary to reason and logic, and are sometimes senseless or absurd. It is important to recognize, however, that in societies with irrational beliefs and practices, it is not clear whether challenging those beliefs and practices-and therefore possibly endangering oneself-is rational or irrational. Furthermore, suppose one’s vested interests are best advanced by adopting beliefs and practices that are contrary to reason. Is it then rational to follow reason and negate one’s vested interests or follow one’s interests and ignore reason? These very real dilemmas of everyday life represent on-going problems for critical thinkers. Selfish critical thinkers, of course, face no dilemma here because of their consistent commitment to advance their narrow vested interests. Fairminded critical thinkers make these decisions self-consciously and honestly assess the results.



1) The act of judging or deciding.

2) Understanding and good sense. A person has good judgment when they typically judge and decide on the basis of understanding and good sense. Whenever we form a belief or opinion, make a decision, or act, we do so on the basis of implicit or explicit judgments. All thought presupposes making judgments concerning what is so and what is not so, what is true and what is not. To cultivate people’s ability to think critically is to foster their judgment, to help them to develop the habit of judging on the basis of reason, evidence, logic, and good sense. Good judgment is developed, not by merely learning about principles of good judgment, but by frequent practice judging and assessing judgments.


 Knowledge: The act of having a clear and justifiable grasp of what is so or of how to do something. Knowledge is based on understanding or skill, which in turn are based on thought, study, and experience. “Thoughtless knowledge” is a contradiction. “Blind knowledge” is a contradiction. “Unjustifiable knowledge” is a contradiction. Knowledge implies justifiable belief or skilled action. Hence, when students blindly memorize and are tested for recall, they are not being tested for knowledge. Knowledge is continually confused with recall in present-day schooling.

This confusion is a deep-seated impediment to the integration of critical thinking into schooling. Genuine knowledge is inseparable from thinking minds. We often wrongly talk of knowledge as though it could be divorced from thinking, as though it could be gathered up by one person and given to another in the form of a collection of sentences to remember. When we talk in this way, we forget that knowledge, by its very nature, depends on thought.

Knowledge is produced by thought, analyzed by thought, comprehended by thought, organized, evaluated, maintained, and transformed by thought. Knowledge can be acquired only through thought. Knowledge exists, properly speaking, only in minds that have comprehended and justified it through thought. Knowledge is not to be confused with belief nor with symbolic representation of belief. Humans easily and frequently believe things that are false or believe things to be true without knowing them to be so. A book contains knowledge only in a derivative sense, only because minds can thoughtfully read it and through that process gain knowledge.


Logic: Correct reasoning or the study of correct reasoning and its foundations. The relationships between propositions (supports, assumes, implies, contradicts, counts against, is relevant to . . . ). The system of principles, concepts, and assumptions that underlie any discipline, activity, or practice. The set of rational considerations that bear upon the truth or justification of any belief or set of beliefs. The set of rational considerations that bear upon the settlement of any question or set of questions.

The word “logic” covers a range of related concerns all bearing upon the question of rational justification and explanation. All human thought and behavior is to some extent based on logic rather than instinct. Humans try to figure things out using ideas, meanings, and thought. Such intellectual behavior inevitably involves “logic” or considerations of a logical sort: some sense of what is relevant and irrelevant, of what supports and what counts against a belief, of what we should and should not assume, of what we should and should not claim, of what we do and do not know, of what is and is not implied, of what does and does not contradict, of what we should or should not do or believe.

Concepts have a logic in that we can investigate the conditions under which they do and do not apply, of what is relevant or irrelevant to them, of what they do or don’t imply, etc. Questions have a logic in that we can investigate the conditions under which they can be settled. Disciplines have a logic in that they have purposes and a set of logical structures that bear upon those purposes: assumptions, concepts, issues, data, theories, claims, implications, consequences, etc.

The concept of logic is a seminal notion in critical thinking. Unfortunately, it takes a considerable length of time before most people become comfortable with its multiple uses. In part, this is due to people’s failure to monitor their own thinking in keeping with the standards of reason and logic. This is not to deny, of course, that logic is involved in all human thinking. It is rather to say that the logic we use is often implicit, unexpressed, and sometimes contradictory. See knowledge, higher and lower order learning, the logic of a discipline, the logic of language, the logic of questions.


Metacognition is the process of “thinking about thinking.” For example, good readers use metacognition before reading when they clarify their purpose for reading and preview the text.

Monitoring comprehension
Readers who monitor their comprehension know when they understand what they read and when they do not. Students are able to use appropriate “fix-up” strategies to resolve problems in comprehension.


 National bias: Prejudice in favor of one’s country, its beliefs, traditions, practices, image, and world view; a form of sociocentrism or ethnocentrism. It is natural, if not inevitable, for people to be favorably disposed toward the beliefs, traditions, practices, and world view within which they were raised. Unfortunately, this favorable inclination commonly becomes a form of prejudice: a more or less rigid, irrational ego-identification which significantly distorts one’s view of one’s own nation and the world at large. It is manifested in a tendency to mindlessly take the side of one’s own government, to uncritically accept governmental accounts of the nature of disputes with other nations, to uncritically exaggerate the virtues of one’s own nation while playing down the virtues of “enemy” nations.


Onset and Rime
Onsets and rimes are parts of monosyllabic words in spoken language. These units are smaller than syllables but may be larger than phonemes. An onset is the initial consonant sound of a syllable (the onset of bag is b-; of swim is sw-). The rime is the part of a syllable that contains the vowel and all that follows it (the rime of bag is -ag; of swim is -im).

Onset-rime phonics instruction
In this approach, children learn to break monosyllabic words into their onsets (consonants preceding the vowel) and rimes (vowel and following consonants). They read each part separately and then blend the parts to say the whole word.


Phonemes are the smallest units of sound that change the meanings of spoken words. For example, if you change the first phoneme in bat from /b/ to /p/, the word bat changes to pat. English has about 41-44 phonemes. A few words, such as a or oh, have only one phoneme. Most words have more than one phoneme. The word if has two phonemes /i/ and /f/.

Phoneme identity
In this activity, children learn to recognize the same sounds in different words. (Teacher: What sound is the same in fixfall, and fun? Children: The first sound, /f/, is the same.)

Phonics is a form of instruction to cultivate the understanding and use of the alphabetic principle, that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes (the sounds in spoken language) and graphemes, the letters that represent those sounds in written language and that this information can be used to read or decode words.

 Problem: A question, matter, situation, or person that is perplexing or difficult to figure out, handle, or resolve. Problems, like questions, can be divided into many types. Each has a (particular) logic. See logic of questions, monological problems, multilogical problems.


Problem-solving: Whenever a problem cannot be solved formulaically or robotically, critical thinking is required; first, to determine the nature and dimensions of the problem, and then, in the light of the first, to determine the considerations, points of view, concepts, theories, data, and reasoning relevant to its solution. Extensive practice in independent problem-solving is essential to developing critical thought. Problem-solving is rarely best approached procedurally or as a series of rigidly followed steps. For example, problem-solving schemas typically begin, “State the problem.” Rarely can problems be precisely and fairly stated prior to analysis, gathering of evidence, and dialogical or dialectical thought wherein several provisional descriptions of the problem are proposed, assessed, and revised.



 Question is something that you say or write in order to ask a person about something.  Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples


Reciprocal teaching
Reciprocal teaching is a multiple-strategy instructional approach for teaching comprehension skills to students. Teachers teach students four strategies: asking questions about the text they are reading; summarizing parts of the text; clarifying words and sentences they don’t understand; and predicting what might occur next in the text.

Repeated and monitored oral reading
In this instructional activity, students read and reread a text a certain number of times or until a certain level of fluency is reached. This technique has been shown to improve reading fluency and overall reading achievement. Four re-readings are usually sufficient for most students. Students may also practice reading orally through the use of audiotapes, tutors, peer guidance, or other means.

 Reciprocity: The act of entering empathically into the point of view or line of reasoning of others; learning to think as others do and by that means sympathetically assessing that thinking. (Reciprocity requires creative imagination as well as intellectual skill and a commitment to fairmindedness.)


Story structure
In story structure, a reader sees the way the content and events of a story are organized into a plot. Students learn to identify the categories of content (setting, characters, initiating events, internal reactions, goals, attempts, and outcomes) and how this content is organized into a plot. Often students recognize the way the story is organized by developing a story map. This strategy improves students’ comprehension and memory of story content and meaning.

Summarizing is a process in which a reader synthesizes the important ideas in a text. Teaching students to summarize helps them generate main ideas, connect central ideas, eliminate redundant and unnecessary information, and remember what they read.


Text comprehension
Text comprehension is the reason for reading: understanding what is read, with readers reading actively (engaging in the complex process of making sense from text) and with purpose (for learning, understanding, or enjoyment).

Think: The general word meaning to exercise the mental faculties so as to form ideas, arrive at conclusions, etc.  “Reason” implies a logical sequence of thought, starting with what is known or assumed and advancing to a definite conclusion through the inferences drawn. “Reflect” implies a turning of one’s thoughts back on a subject and connotes deep or quiet continued thought. “Speculate” implies a reasoning on the basis of incomplete or uncertain evidence and therefore stresses the conjectural character of the opinions formed. “Deliberate” implies careful and thorough consideration of a matter in order to arrive at a conclusion. Though everyone thinks, few people think critically. We don’t need instruction to think; we think spontaneously. We need instruction to learn how to discipline and direct our thinking on the basis of sound intellectual standards. See elements of thought, perfections of thought.


Truth: Conformity to knowledge, fact, actuality, or logic: a statement proven to be or accepted as true, not false or erroneous. Most people uncritically assume their views to be correct and true. Most people, in other words, assume themselves to possess the truth. Critical thinking is essential to avoid this, if for no other reason.


Uncritical person: One who has not developed intellectual skills (naive, conformist, easily manipulated, dogmatic, easily confused, unclear, closedminded, narrowminded, careless in word choice, inconsistent, unable to distinguish evidence from interpretation). Uncriticalness is a fundamental problem in human life, for when we are uncritical we nevertheless think of ourselves as critical. The first step in becoming a critical thinker consists in recognizing that we are uncritical. Teaching for insight into uncriticalness is an important part of teaching for criticalness.


Vocabulary refers to the words a reader knows. Listening vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when hearing them in oral speech. Speaking vocabulary refers to the words we use when we speak. Reading vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when seeing them in print. Writing vocabulary refers to the words we use in writing.


Word parts
Word parts include affixes (prefixes and suffixes), base words, and word roots.

Word roots
Word roots are words from other languages that are the origin of many English words. About 60% of all English words have Latin or Greek origins.

¨¨The words and phrases used by educators to describe certain aspects of reading and reading instruction can be complex. If parents, teachers, administrators, and policy-makers are to work diligently toward improvements in the teaching of reading, it’s helpful to know and use the same language. Here is a list of commonly used terms related to reading, literacy, and reading instruction.