Wednesday, 12 August 2020, 11:06 AM
Site: NILE
Course: NILE ELT Glossary (NILE-ELT Glossary)
Glossary: ELT terms - defined and referenced!


This is a stage in a lesson in which the teacher introduces vocabulary that the learners will need in following stages of the lesson. This stage is often associated with reading, listening or integrated skills lessons but can also occur before speaking or writing activities. The teacher generally sets up the context of the following activities then introduces the new vocabulary within that context. The idea behind pre-teaching vocabulary is to lessen the load of unknown words the learner has to deal with later on in the lesson.


For many years teachers were recommended to pre-teach vocabulary before working on texts. Nowadays though, some question this, suggesting that the contexts that teachers are able to set up for pre-teaching are rarely meaningful and that pre-teaching in fact prevents learners from developing the attack strategies they need for dealing with challenging texts.

Further reading

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. London: Macmillan.




See Affixation


Preposition is a grammatical term for a word that shows a relationship between events, people or things such as time, proximity, place. Prepositions represent a word class/ part of speech. In English they are numerous, usually come before nouns or pronouns and can be used literally or figuratively.


Prepositions can be easier to learn if they are taught as part of a chunk e,g, on time, at home, in pairs, look forward to, but unfortunately they are not all or always used in common chunks or collocations.

Further reading

Lindstromberg, S. (2010). English Prepositions Explained. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, second edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.



Prepositional phrase

See Phrase


Prescriptive is a word used to describe an attitude to grammar that says what grammar should be used. Prescriptive grammars are based on an idea of what grammar should be used rather than what grammar is actually used. ‘Prescriptive’ is often contrasted with ‘descriptive’. Descriptive grammars describe how grammar is actually used.


Prescriptive grammars of English used to tell us things like: you can’t use verbs of feeling in the present continuous, you can’t put a preposition at the end of a sentence, you can’t use that as a relative pronoun to refer to people. In fact, when you hear people talking they do things like that all the time e.g. I’m loving it, I don’t know which class she’s in, the student that I need to talk to is….….

Further reading

Cameron, D. (1995).Verbal Hygiene. London: Routledge.

Huddleston, R. (1984). Introduction to the Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Strevens, P. (1978).In Honour of A.S. Hornby. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.



Principled eclecticism

See Eclecticism

Process writing

Process writing is an approach to writing that deliberately incorporates a focus on the stages in producing a piece of writing rather than focussing just on the product of the writing (product writing). The stages involved in writing are generating and developing ideas, planning and organising, drafting, editing, redrafting, proof-reading and publishing (i.e. making public). Many experts believe that by focussing learners on the stages of writing, process writing helps learners become aware of what writing demands of them, and what enables good writing.


"One of the big problems my students have with their writing is not planning properly and not editing or proof-reading. When I introduce them to process writing it really seems to help them write better."

Further reading

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

Hedge T. (1988). Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Kroll B. (1990). Second Language Writing: Research insights for the classroom. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press

Raimes A. (1983). Techniques in Teaching Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

White, R. and Arndt, V. (1991). Process Writing. Harlow: Longman.



Product writing

See Process writing

Professionalism/professional/professional skills (n/adj./n.)

The concept of there being particular strategies and approaches that help teachers to improve their own work and also to develop their department, school or the whole profession. Some definitions of these terms also include skills that are not teaching skills but which could help teachers do their job better, for example interpersonal skills or computer skills, while others add generally desirable employee characteristics such as reliability, honesty, conscientiousness and a suitably smart appearance.

John is the most professional teacher I have ever met. So can you timetable him to be teaching in that room opposite the Head’s office when the inspectors come next week? ‘Cos they’re bound to pop into that room. 

Progressive aspect

See Aspect


A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun to represent that noun. In English, pronouns are a word class/ part of speech and there are several kinds: subject (e.g. he, they), object (e.g. him, us), relative (e.g. that, which), reflexive (e.g. ourselves, itself), indefinite (e.g. no one, none), possessive (e.g. our, their), interrogative (e.g. which, what), demonstrative (e.g. this, those), reciprocal (each other, one another), quantifiers (e.g. all, one).


Students often don’t realise how important pronouns are to understanding spoken or written language or to expressing themselves clearly, particularly in writing. Pronouns are really important in establishing the cohesion of a text.

Further reading

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, second edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (1997).About Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.



Pyramid (n.)

A classroom interaction pattern in which learners work in twos on a task and then come together with another pair to compare and reach a consensus on their results. Each group of four then joins another group of four and the group of eight must negotiate to produce a result that represents both groups of four. Finally, the products or outcomes of the work are shared in plenary.

Robert wanted them to come to a decision about the class outing while practising their English and decided that he would set up a pyramid task to achieve both aims. 



See Pronoun

Question Tag/Tag Question

A question tag is a clause usually containing an inverted subject and an auxiliary or modal verb, and inserted at the end of a statement. It turns the statement into a question or a request for confirmation, depending on its intonation, with a rising tone indicating a question and a falling tone signalling a request for confirmation. A question formed by adding a question tag to the end of a statement is called a tag question.


Here are some tag questions that use different question tags:

He left last night, didn’t he?

She can’t swim, can she?

Nobody understands, do they?

You’ll bring it tomorrow, won’t you?

Further reading

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Underhill, A. (2005) Sound Foundations. Oxford: MacMillan.





Range is a term used in assessment criteria and in syllabus design to refer to the breadth and variety of language (grammar or lexis) that is appropriate for use in a particular genre. For example, the range of language appropriate for use in a text message to a friend about when and where to meet up next is likely to be much narrower than the range needed in a tourist leaflet describing the attractions of an historic town. Teachers are also often encouraged in syllabuses to teach their students the features of an appropriate range of genres.

The semantic range of a word refers to its occurrence across several subsections of a corpus.


"I’ve just marked Pedro’s essay – his grammatical range was really quite impressive-he used all the tenses he needed to use, simple and complex sentences, and a variety of conjunctions and discourse markers - just what was needed in that kind of formal essay."

Further reading

Nation, P. & Waring, R. “Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists”




Objects from outside the classroom that the teacher or learners bring into the classroom in order to illustrate meaning or prompt communication or learning. They include anything portable such as household items, clothing, things related to travel (tickets, brochures, credit cards, leaflets), toys, photos, newspapers. Nowadays in some teaching contexts realia are often replaced by PowerPoint images and visuals on interactive white boards.


"Primary school students are often very motivated by working with realia. They love doing things like counting different fruits or putting models of different kinds of animals into different baskets as a way of categorising them."

Further reading 




To remember something, often with the help of prompts or clues.


"To recall new vocabulary I often try to use a clue – for example, the Italian for ‘bell’ is campana – if you say it slowly hanging on the ‘n’, to me it sounds just like a big bell ringing. When I hear a bell ringing now, the word campana often automatically comes into my mind."

Further reading

Bilborough, N. (2011).  Memory Activities for Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nation, I.S.P. (2001). Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Skehan, P. (1998). A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Takac, V.P. (2008). Vocabulary Learning Strategies and Foreign Language Acquisition. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.




These are terms used in relation to the language skills of reading, listening, writing and speaking. The first two are said to be receptive as they involve absorbing language while the latter two are known as productive as they involve producing language. Receptive skills are sometimes thought of as being passive while productive skills are thought of as active. In fact, this categorisation is rather misleading, as a reader or listener can be very active in their comprehension and interpretation of language while reading or listening, and of course, much reading and listening takes place interactively with writing and speaking.


I think it’s rather unhelpful to talk of listening or reading lessons. I prefer to think of integrated skills lessons where a focus on a receptive skill often leads into and supports the learning of productive skill.

Further reading

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. London: Macmillan.

Ur, P.  (1999). A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




See Pronoun


Teachers recycle language when they deliberately bring items of language that have already been taught to learners’ attention or for learners’ use a second or further time. The purpose of recycling is to give learners further exposure to particular language items.  Coursebook designers often build recycling into their materials, as do syllabus writers who adopt a spiral approach, dealing with the same item again but in greater detail.


"That book is really good because it recycles the main language points, giving learners the chance to extend their understanding and use of what they’ve learnt before."

Further reading

Harmer, J. (2012). Teacher knowledge, Harlow: Pearson.

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.