Students often breeze right over words they do not know or do not understand when they are reading. This lesson is showing students that it can be a good thing to focus our attention on those unknown words, or to focus our attention on words that are better than average.
I start by having them use their white boards to brainstorm "juicy" words for words we overuse. We play a game called "SHOW ME." This is where students write an answer on their white board and then wait for me to say "show me." Once I say this, they raise their boards up and I check what they have written. This keeps them from copying and lets me see who is struggling with the material.
For this game of SHOW ME, I write happy on the board and ask them to write a "juicier" word for it. I then say, "show me," and I check to see what words they have written. Many students chose the word excited. I used this to explain how some words we use are better than average overused words but there might be an even cooler more fascinating word out there we can use.
I ask them to tell me where I might find these amazing words that most of do not use. I got answers that vary from using a dictionary, thesaurus, and one students said a glossary. I was "happy" that one student remembered this text feature for helping them with words.
This is where I hook them into the lesson, by explaining that I can use the books I am reading to gain new words from. I am even going to prove to them by reading to them and having them listen for extraordinary words that they might be able to use. When I say use I make sure to explain that it is in reading, writing, and speaking. Sometimes the easiest way to use a new word is to try it out when they are talking.
The next step is to model and demonstrate how I can find interesting words while I am reading. We are going to do this through a game using our white boards. I am going to number students off 1-3. I have them write this number in the corner of their white board so they don't forget which number they are. There is always one :-).
I explain the rules of how we are going to tune into interesting words. On each page that I read, I will call out number 1, 2, or 3. That number will then be in charge of listening carefully to the page I am reading and then will have to write down, as best they can, the most interesting words that they hear. To model, I read the title of the story and then read page one. After I read the page I write the most interesting word that I read. I then explain why this word is interesting. I like to model that interesting words are ones that are fun to say. They are words we do not know or use, but when we say them we sound smarter and it feels good coming off our tongue.
It is now their turn to listen as I read and determine which words are interesting. I start with number one and read the next page. I reread the page and the students that are "ones" can write an interesting word they have heard on their white board. I reread to make sure that students have heard what I have read, have time to process it, and then write a word of their choice.
I continue to call out numbers and read the following page. Following the same pattern of reading to give time and allow them to write. It might take a couple of pages for each number depending on the words and what words you want your students to key on.
The book I used was How to Bake an American Pie by Karma Wilson.
It is now time for the groups to share their words and for the rest of the class to determine if the words were interesting and something we could use in our writing or speaking. When a word is shared I then ask why did the author choose this word and how does it help tell the story. If students can not explain the word or are not sure what it means, I go back and find it in the book and read it again.
After completing the interesting activity I want to switch the focus to inferencing and what was the author trying to tell us. First we talk about the structure of the book and soon students realize that the book is a poem. Then we talk about each page and try to determine the hidden meaning and why we think that. This is an easier task that is intended for all students to find success. Students can use the pictures to help them tell the story and I make sure to let my students see the pictures if needed. My higher students I try to have them infer without them.
We continue until we have completed the book and then as a class we vote the author's purpose and what did we find out from the story.