Vocabulary Inquiry: Using Context to Learn New Words

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Students will be able to determine the meaning of words in a text through context and using a dictionary.

Big Idea

Students choose and learn the words they are unfamiliar with using a variety of resources.


10 minutes

My student teacher came up with today's journal topic. 


Going through the words to know yesterday, what was the most frustrating aspect about the activity? What was the most effective way to create the definition? How did you feel about choosing our new vocabulary words? Explain with concrete evidence and commentary. 

Daily Grams

10 minutes

 The difference between proper and common nouns is reviewed throughout today's paragraph, as well as adjectives that describe those common and proper nouns.

Sentence 4 is a second reminder of the difference between immigration and emigration.  Since in this paragraph, individuals are entering a country, the correct word is immigrants.

Sentence 5 is an example of a homonym (aloud vs. allowed).

Sentence 6 provides a chance to discuss personification.

We encounter a subject/verb disagreement in Sentence 7.


Vocabulary in Context

25 minutes

Yesterday we went through the list of words that students had generated and determined which ones we knew and had a decent understanding of and which ones we didn't.  Today we were tackling the words we didn't know using the context of the story.


We'd already written the words we were going to focus on on our handy dandy handout. I asked a student which word she wanted me to model, and she chose audible.  I modeled the entire process I wanted the students to complete. 


First, I found where the word was used in the text.  The sentence was, '"No,' my father said, in a barely audible voice" (3). 


Second, I made a prediction.  I said, "It sounds like she can't hear him, maybe because he's embarrassed or ashamed of his wife having a job.  But for the word audible, I think she can barely hear him, so I'm going to write that down in the prediction column.


Third, I grabbed a dictionary to check my prediction.  I was close, but not one hundred percent.  Audible means able to be heard.  It was the word 'barely' in the sentence that made me think that she couldn't hear, but that isn't what audible meant.  It meant 'able to be heard,' so I wrote the real, accurate definition in the last box.  The final thing I did while I had the dictionary was check for the part of speech.  Audible is an adjective, so I added that to my chart.


I asked if they needed to see another example, but they said no, so I went about breaking the students into groups of two. I broke the students up into groups of two using the handy dandy group generator and asked a student to write the names on the master list.  It was completely random.  For co-taught groups, I don't make it as random, but for the group I have, random is fine.


They went through the same steps I did.  Find the word in the story "The White Umbrella", copy the sentence, make a prediction, and check the dictionary for accuracy.  I gave them about ten minutes to complete their word.


Of course, some groups finished before others.  I told the groups that finished first to go to another group and share their word and definition and get that group's word and definition. 


Did some students simply copy instead of truly sharing?  Of course.  Did I hear any complains about how many words they had to learn?  No.  Did I hear a complaint about how copying wasn't really learning?  Yes, but she was upset because of who she was randomly paired with. Did I mention, though, that there was no complaining about how many words there were?  I've never had students NOT complain about having fourteen vocabulary words.  I honestly think that since they'd chosen the words, they were fine with it.  And I would have chosen the same words, anyway!

Lesson Resources

Today's lesson picture is of two of my students looking intently at the dictionary.