Firehouse Dogs: Make Meaning of the Text

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Acquire and use comprehension strategies to make meaning of a complex text.

Big Idea

Dalmatians and firehouses are an interesting combination. Students make their way through an article that includes unfamiliar vocabulary to discover how the relationship between the two started.

The UNRAVEL Strategy

15 minutes

The article "Dalmations: Firehouse Dogs" contains some vocabulary terms and phrases that students may find unfamiliar, so extra time will need to be spend making sure they comprehend the text by reviewing fix-up strategies for this situation.  These skills are applicable in all content areas.

We proceed through the steps of the UNRAVEL strategy, as in previous lessons in this nonfiction unit. It is an anagram for a process of finding meaning in a text:

U – underline and read the title, subtitles, headings, and subheadings

N – notice pictures, maps, charts, diagrams, and captions

R – remember to number the paragraphs

A – are the key words (bold, italics, underlined) circled?

V – venture through the text. Highlight important work. Take notes and summarize in the margins or on stickies.

E – examine confusing parts of text by rereading ad using fix-up strategies.

L – look back and check when answering questions.

However, we pause when we get to the letter V for two reasons. First, I ask, “Since there are no bold, italicized or underlined words in the text does it mean that there won’t be any difficult to understand words?” Right away students confirm that this is not often the case. So I follow up with the question, “What do you do if you come across something you do not understand? You know the UNRAVEL strategy mentions fix-up strategies. What are they in this case?” They come up with:

·      Context clues – looking before and after the word for hints to its meaning

·      Breaking the word into parts that are familiar

·      Using a dictionary or thesaurus

Make Meaning of the Text

40 minutes

Because I want the students to hear the article read fluently start to finish, I decide to read it aloud. Their one job becomes circling parts they do not understand while they listen and we will discuss these parts afterwards.

My suspicion is that they will pick out words such as gregarious, ruse and relative rarity, but to my surprise the historical context that gives them the most trouble. Stagecoach, coach driver, pumper wagon, Old Country are terms that help set the scene and lead students to understand the important role of horses in a time period far different than our own. Students work in pairs to uncover the meanings of these and others words or phrases in the text they deem troublesome. In addition to providing the meaning of the assigned word to the class, they reveal which of the methods listed above they employ. A marked up copy of the text appears here.

This vocabulary video is one I expect students to use in my social studies class when they encounter new or unfamiliar terminology and in science class too. In fact, I purposely arranged to teach this lesson the day before students take part in an integrated lesson the science teacher and I have been working on.