Lesson: Unknown Word: synonyms

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Lesson Objective

Students will substitute synonyms for words to determine the meaning of an unknown word.

Lesson Plan

Connection (3-5 mins): Readers you know that it is important to use strategies to figure out the meaning of a word we don’t know.  Yesterday, we learned to use context clues, or hints the author gives us, to figure out the meaning of a word.  Those examples had answer choices to help us figure out the meaning.  Today, we will continue to learn how to figure out words we do not know by using synonyms.


Teach (10-12 mins): Students should be seated on the carpet with a partner.  They will be expected to turn and talk to this partner throughout the lesson. Readers, we have talked about synonyms in the past.  Remember that synonyms are two words that have the same meaning or close to the same meaning.  For example, chilly and cold are synonyms because they mean about the same thing about the temperature of an area. 


Today, we will use what we know about synonyms to determine the meaning of an unknown word.  This is a great strategy to use when we have a multiple choice question.  This is because if we don’t know the meaning of the word, we can use the answer choices to substitute words into the sentence.  If the word makes sense that we substitute then it must be a synonym for the unknown word.  Therefore, we know the meaning of the unknown word and will probably select the best answer choice.


Let’s look at a few examples to show you what I mean.  Teacher places worksheet on the overhead.  Let’s read the first question together.  Teacher reads aloud the first question.  When we are looking for a synonym for the word tome or a word that means the same thing.  I am going to re-read the sentences using our answer choices to see which one makes the most sense. 


Teacher reads aloud the sentence using the word food.  Well I don’t think we can take food off a shelf and open it to a certain pages because food doesn’t have page.  Let’s try using the words bad dream.  That doesn’t really make sense either.  The third choice is a cigarette and again a cigarette doesn’t have a page number or can’t be opened.  The last work, book must be the synonym.  It makes sense because I can take a book off a shelf and open it to page 94 and start reading.  I now know that tome and book are synonyms or have a similar meaning.  From now on when I see the word tome in a text, I will know to think of a book. 


Now it’s your turn to try.  Teacher reads aloud the second sentence.  Remember, we want to substitute our answer choices into the sentence to see if we can find a synonym for the unknown word.  Turn and talk to your partner to try this strategy.  Students turn and talk while teacher listens in to conversations.  Teacher has a student share their thinking and answer choice.  Great job readers! The answer is dangerous.  If I use dangerous in that sentence it makes sense because I know only foolish people would go out in dangerous weather.  That lets me know that treacherous must mean dangerous or be a synonym for the word dangerous. 


Let’s try one more time for you return to your seats.  Turn and tell your partner the answer for the third question.  Remember to read each answer choice in the sentence with your partner before you select an answer.  Students turn and talk while teacher listens in to student conversations.  Teacher has a student share their thinking and talks through the answer.


I think you are ready to try the rest of these questions on your own.  When you return to your seats you will be given the rest of the sentence to try to solve for the meaning of the unknown word.  If you finish early, you may read in your independent reading book and add to your unknown words list in your reader’s notebook. Off you go readers.


Active Engagement (15-20 mins): Students return to their seats to work independently.  Teacher should circulate during this time to conference with students or pull a small group.


Exit Slip/Share (3-5 mins): Teacher has two options for assessment.  An informal assessment can be completed during individual conferences and through having students share out their thinking/answer choices at the end of workshop time.  Or the teacher can collect the worksheets to sort based on mastery.


Reflection: This lesson is relatively simple to teach but requires that students use a variety of strategies to solve for an unknown word.  I still worry that students do not carry over this strategy to their own reading because they are not normally given answer choices during reading for enjoyment.  However, it is a great place to start to begin preparing students for vocabulary questions on end-of-year assessments.

Lesson Resources

Exit Slip: Synonyms.doc  


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