ELT terms - defined and referenced!

Welcome to the NILE ELT Glossary


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We hope this is useful for you and your NILE Online course.

(Definitions written by Mary Spratt, edited by Alan Pulverness)

Browse the glossary using this index

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A genre refers to texts (spoken or written) that share the same conventions e.g. structure, vocabulary, register, grammar. Students often need to be aware of the characteristics of particular genres in order to produce them well.


Genres can be very different from one another. In speaking, for example, lectures and conversation are two quite different genres with different structures and registers. And in writing the genre of emails is quite different from that of essays.

Further reading

Allison, D. (1999) Key Concepts in ELT: Genre. ELT Journal, 53/2.

Larsen-Freeman, D. & Cameron, L. (2008) Complex Systems and Applied Linguistics, Oxford:

Oxford University Press.

Martin, J. (1989) Factual Writing: Exploring and challenging social reality (2nd ed.), Oxford:

Oxford University Press.

McCarthy, M. and Carter, R. (1994) Language as Discourse: Perspectives for Language

Teaching, London: Longman.

Paltridge, B. (2001). Genre and the Language Learning Classroom. Ann Arbor: University of

Michigan Press.

Swales, J.M. (1990)Genre Analysis: English in academic and research settings, Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2005). Beyond the Sentence: Introducing Discourse Analysis. Oxford:






This is a grammatical term referring in English to a verb + -ing form which acts as a noun. Because it is a noun it is not the same as the –ing form used in the present participle. Some grammars use the term ‘-ing form’ to refer to both gerunds and present participles and do not distinguish between the two.


You often find gerunds as subjects on notices e.g. Running in the playground is forbidden, Talking after lights go out is forbidden, Driving over the speed limit carries a £60 fine.

Further reading

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

Fowler, H.W. (1926). A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress.

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



Graded reader

A graded reader is a book in which the language has been graded or adapted to match a particular level of proficiency e.g. A2, B2. Graded readers may be newly written or adaptations of existing books. They can include any genre of writing. They sometimes include a glossary and activities on the text. The purpose of graded readers is to provide learners with additional exposure to language, often out of class, and develop their reading skills.


When I was learning English, my teacher used to feed me with graded readers as she knew I loved reading. I used to read at least one graded reader a week and was soon able to move on to ‘real books’.

Further reading

Cambridge English Readers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

MacMillan Readers. Oxford: MacMillan.

Oxford Bookworms Collection: Oxford: Oxford University Press.


http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/extensive-reading- Extensive reading. by Graham Stanley

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/reading-out-loud - Reading aloud, by James Houltby.

http://www.onestopenglish.com/section.asp?docid=146513 Using Readers in the ESL, EFL Classroom, by Lindsay Clandfield with Jo Budden



Grammar dictation

The terms grammar dictation and dictogloss are used interchangeably to refer to a technique for developing students’ grammatical competence.  The technique involves dictating a text to students at normal speed while students copy down what they can of what they hear, leaving gaps for the parts they have not been able to write down for whatever reason. Then the students in pairs or groups compare what they have written and  try and complete their version of the text. The teacher may choose to then repeat this process. At the end students are given a copy of the original text to compare with their text and discuss the differences. The thinking behind grammar dictation is that it encourages students to think about both meaning and grammar, and make grammatical choices based on working out intended meanings.


In my experience students are always discouraged when you do grammar dictation for the first time. They find it hard. But over time, they come to like it and appreciate how much they learn from it.

Further reading

Wainryb, R. (1990). Grammar Dictation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.





Grammar translation

A method of language teaching in which students study rules of language, then test out their understanding of these rules through doing exercises on them. Students also translate texts in the L2 into their L1. This method was very popular in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, being gradually replaced by methods which focussed more on use of the language.


"I learnt Latin at school – I spent my time learning rules, doing grammar exercises, then translating passages by Caesar, Virgil and others. I now know this was called the grammar-translation method. I loved it!"

Further reading

Howatt, A.P.R. with Widdowson H.G. (2004). A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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




This is a teaching technique, also known as grammaticization, in which students are given key words, e.g. from a dialogue or text that have just read or are about to read, and asked to add ‘grammar’ words to these key words to produce a text that makes sense. Behind this technique is Diana Larsen-Freeman’s idea of ‘grammaring’, the skill of relating form and structure to meaningful units.


I like doing grammatisation with my students and they like it too. I just give them key words in the correct orderfrom very short texts and they have to fill in the ‘grammar’ words. They find it quite intriguing how many meaningful combinations you can get from a few key words. Sometimes they get really involved in defending the meaning of their sentences.

Further reading

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2003). Teaching Language: From Grammar to Grammaring. Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

Thornbury, S. (1995). Uncovering Grammar. Oxford: MacMillan.

Thornbury, S. (1998). The Lexical Approach: a journey without maps? Modern English Teacher 7/4.

Batstone, R. (1994). Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Guided discovery

Guided discovery is an approach to teaching language in which learners are presented with examples of language (e.g. adjectives starting with the prefixes in- or un- or ir-) and prompted or asked leading questions in order to work out what the rule of use is, or what grammatical patterning underlies the examples. Guided discovery is said to encourage learners to become more autonomous and to be based on the way language is learnt naturally outside the classroom.


"Teacher: Look at these examples on the board, then complete the rule about how to form the present perfect."


The present perfect

I have been to China.

He has travelled all over the world.

They have bought tickets for a boat trip to Cyprus.

The form of the present perfect:

Subject + ………………… + …………………


Further reading

Ellis, R. (2002) Methodological options in grammar teaching materials. In Hinkel, E., & Fotos, S. (eds.) New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms.  Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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

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

Thornbury, S. and Watkins, P. (2007) The CELTA Course. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.