Monitor and Clarify: Caribbean Dream

2 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT determine new word or phrase meanings using context clues and other external resources.

Big Idea

Your students will gain reading comprehension skills and confidence using the strategies in this lesson.


Common Core Connection:

One new concept that goes hand in hand with Common Core aligned-teaching and that gets a lot of attention is the student taking on the responsibility for his/her learning and the teacher as being more of a guide or facilitator.  In this lesson, where my students were required to read closely and interpret words and phrases as well ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text, I was the facilitator while they led the way to their learning new skills. Though it's not always the easiest way to teach, it can yield incredible results when working with tough, rigorous content.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson my students worked together to discover and learn additional ways to determine new word and phrase meanings.


  • Caribbean Dream, by Rachel Isadora
  • Alternative: Summer Sun Rising by W. Nikola-Lisa
  • Copies of the first page of the book Caribbean Dream, one per student
  • Monitor and Clarify Activity Sheet (teacher created)


5 minutes

To begin this lesson about monitor and clarify I showed my students the cover of our big book, Caribbean Dream, and I read the title to them.  I then asked if any of them had heard of the word “Caribbean” before.  After a moment of think time I called on students who had their hand up and quickly realized that they were unfamiliar with this word and where the area is on the map.  (I was expecting students to tell me about one of the “Pirate of Caribbean” movies, but, strangely enough, none of them even knew of the word within the context of those movies).

Guided Practice

15 minutes

I started off by re-emphasizing what we had learned in previous lessons: “You don’t know what the Caribbean is?  Well, how can you find out what something is?"  After a moment of think time, I had my students whisper their answers in their hands (Demonstration: Whisper to Me).  I then used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select three students to share their answers with the class. These three student’s answers included: read more and look in a book.  As I validated their answers, the rest of the class agreed by showing me a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).  I also added they could use what they already knew, look at the pictures, ask a friend, do a Google search, or even go “old school” and look in a dictionary.  (Introducing Monitor and Clarify)

I then pointed to the front cover of Caribbean Dream and told them to look at the picture and use what they know to tell me what they thought the word “Caribbean” meant.  This time they were able to tell me it looked like an island or a beach.  "Correct!" I responded.  Then I told them to listen to find out more.  As I read the poetic story I instructed my students to listen and think about the words, and look at and think about the pictures.

As I read each page I stopped and gave them a little extra time to look at the picture and asked them what a specific word meant.  For example, “Rain meets ground, we splash.”  I asked them to explain the meaning of these words.  After looking at the picture, they were able to tell me the phrase meant playing around in mud puddles created from a rain storm.

When I finished reading, I reminded my students if they did not know what a word or phrase was or meant they could look in a book, re-read the passage, look for picture clues, use what they already know, ask a friend, or look in a dictionary.

Collaborative Activity

20 minutes

At that point I displayed the Monitor and Clarify Activity Sheet on the Promethean board and modeled how to fill it out by reading a passage and writing a word and using one of the strategy words to finish the activity sheet.  I passed out copies of the first page of the book Caribbean Dream, along with their copy of the Monitor and Clarify Activity Sheet, and then I instructed my students they were to re-read the passage with their table partner and look for words they did not know. They should write those words on their activity sheet, along with the page number.  Once they had done this they were to use a clue listed on the bottom of the practice work to help figure out the word.  They were then to find three more examples of words or phrases they did know and try to figure out the meaning.  To check for understanding I used the magic cup to select a student to retell and model the instructions on the Promethean board.

Once I was satisfied that my students understood the directions I set the timer for 10 minutes and pulled my Beginning Reading group to work with me.  While these students worked with me the rest of the class finished working with their table partner.

In the video Discovering New Meanings I am checking in with a small group of students who were trying to find the meaning of the word "cobalt".  I asked the students how they discovered the meaning of the word, and all three students reported that they used the picture as their resource to figure out that cobalt is the color blue/green.  

At the end of 10 minutes I checked to see if the rest of the class needed more time to finish or not and then called them to the carpet.  Back in whole group mode, I directed my students' attention to the displayed activity sheet on the Promethean board and used the magic cup to select students to share with the class what words they wrote.  As these students shared I wrote their answers on the displayed activity sheet, and asked my students for a show of hand if they had the same word or used the same strategy.

When we finished this activity I transitioned my students into their leveled reading groups.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

During this part of the day my students are in their leveled reading groups and rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different reading and writing activities.  I always include journal writing as one of these areas because it gives students the opportunity to practice writing independently as well as helps them analyze and evaluate what they did during the guided and collaborative work time.  The prompt I put on the Promethean board:  In your own words, explain when you would use one of the monitor and clarify strategies and which one did you like best.

As each reading group rotated to my differentiated reading group I checked each journal for understanding, completeness, and writing conventions.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

For a sticker my students formed groups of 3 and each group told me three strategies they could use to learn the meaning of a word they did not know.