"Zebra" Vocabulary (Academic and Words to Know)

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Students will be able to acquire academic and general vocabulary knowledge by shrinking definitions and making Frayer model vocabulary cards.

Big Idea

When dictionaries are just too much. . . definition shrinking and visualizing unfamiliar words.


15 minutes

Journal: Look in your agenda on page 11 for the definition of idiom. Read the sentences and decide if they are an idiom or a sentence.

  • I went down a rabbit hole, but I survived.
  • Robert put the last nail in his coffin.
  • Ms. Evans is as blind as a bat.
  • He blushed like a red tomato.


Then write two idioms of your own.

Daily Grams

15 minutes

Day 33



  • We continue on the constant review of proper nouns and adjectives.
  • Monday is a proper noun because it is a day of the week.
  • The names of ships (Dutchess Regal) are proper nouns.
  • Cruise is not a proper noun, but Alaskan is a proper adjective.  So, in Alaskan cruise, only Alaskan is capitalized.



  •  Commas are placed between two or more descriptive adjectives.  Two descriptive adjectives are separated by a comma, unless it is a color or limiting adjective.
    • "drink hot chocolate on cold snowy days": cold and snowy are descriptive adjectives and need to be separated by a comma. 
  • Periods are placed after the abbreviation of a title
    • Mrs is an abbreviation of Mistress, so needs a period.



  • What's the difference between to rise and to raise?
  • To raise means to go up with help and requires a direct object. 
  • To rise means to get up without help and doesn't need a direct object.
  • Bread (rises/raises) due to yeast: There is no direct object; the correct form is rise.
    • Direct object: What was raised?  what. There is no direct object.
  • The guard (rose/raised) his hand in protest. 'His hand' is the direct object, so raised is correct.
    • Direct object: What was raised? His hand.


Dictionary Skills

  • Today's lesson reviews syllables. It is important to understand syllabication when looking up a word in the dictionary so you know how it is pronounced.
  • For today, students identified how many syllables are in words like bubble, exhibition, and gradual.


Sentence Fluency

  • Today's sentences are two simple sentences with independent clauses that should be combined.
  • Using a conjunction: Carl lifted the crying infant, and the baby began to coo.

Assigning Reading Homework and Turning in Composition Books

5 minutes

We spent about five minutes doing some random organizational things. 


Reading Homework

We started the unit on Chaim Potok's short story, "Zebra."  We did not read this story in class like the previous two stories.  Instead, we assigned the story to be read for homework.  We told students to write the homework down in their sacred agendas.

  • Read "Zebra" (47-61) by Wednesday/Thursday.


Composition Books

After assigning homework, we had students turn in their composition books.  The end of the quarter was quickly coming up on Friday, so we needed to collect their books to give them a grade for all the notes we've done so far this year.  Having the students place their notebooks in an orderly fashion took a couple of minutes.

I Do, We Do, You Do

5 minutes

This activity may not be rigorous.  It may not require analysis, interpretation, or evaluation.  It is, however, a good way to make sure that students know how to say new words correctly.  This is especially important in my co-taught classes so my co-teacher and I make sure to not skip this step in those classes. My co-teacher usually leads this activity.


All the words are written on the board or displayed on the doc cam.  There are seventeen words, divided up into four rows.


For the "I Do" I (the teacher) read all the words aloud.  For 'We Do" all the students read the words aloud.  For "You Do" I (the teacher) chooses random students to pronounce each word in the row.


How can I make this activity more rigorous?  Rather than having just the word, I can also include the dictionary pronunciation scheme thing. The idea is to help guide students to be independent learners, so exposing students to the pronunciation methodology through this activity provides the scaffolding needed.


Zebra Vocabulary

Shrinking Dictionary Definitions

20 minutes



This activity is not just copying dictionary definitions from the dictionary.  That doesn't help students acquire the meanings.  Copying definitions helps students (possibly) memorize denotations for a test, only to forget the definition two seconds after they've turned the test in.  That's not good for anyone.


This activity is designed to give students a strategy for deeply acquiring vocabulary so that the new vocabulary words become a part of their everyday vocabulary. This activity is designed to get students to think critically about dictionary definitions to develop a strategy to acquire new words through a dictionary.


 The Shrinking Process

  • Copy the dictionary definition.
  • Cross out/erase any words that make absolutely no sense.
  • Cross out/erase any words that are repetitive, repeat themselves, or are redundant.
  • Rewrite the definition to make it fluent.
  • The final definition should only be two to six words long.

 Shrinking Vocabulary

We divided up the students in pairs.  After I raided, I mean borrowed, dictionaries from a fellow teacher, I had enough dictionaries for students to work in pairs. They went through the shrinking process by looking up the word in the dictionary, copying the definition and part of speech, and shrinking the definition down to six easily understandable words. 


When I explain this step to my co-taught classes, I told them that the definition should be simple enough for their eight year old brother or sister to understand. This makes it so much more palatable than "simple enough for you to understand it." Shrinking Definitions and aTrick


They wrote their new, shiny, easily understandable definitions on white boards. We kept them safe for the next part of definitions, the carousel.  Come back tomorrow to see what the carousel is.

Lesson Resources

Today's lesson picture is a collection of shrunken definitions from my students.