Teaching your students how to use nonfiction text features helps them to become more independent readers. I have found that many times a student might use various reading strategies and still not be able to comprehend a particular content level vocabulary word. That is when I direct students to use a backup strategy, and that's what today's lesson is all about - learning how to use a glossary.
Before teaching this lesson, I would first teach students how to use several other reading strategies first. Look at my lesson on teaching subheadings and bold faced words. This lesson will show students how to use several different reading strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words. Once students had that knowledge I was able to teach this lesson. Today's lesson is the backup strategy that students should use when the text doesn't lend itself to using those other strategies first.
In today's lesson we are addressing standard RI1.5 because we are teaching students how to use the text feature of a glossary. The knowledge that my students gain with this lesson won't end today. I think about my students participating in research projects in high school and college. They need to be able to know the differences between both fiction and nonfiction so they can collect information from various sources easily. If you turn to page 33 in Appendix A of the standards you'll see the three different tiers of vocabulary. The tier 3 words are the domain specific words in different content areas. I know as my students progress through the grade levels, that my students will be able to obtain these words with the help of a glossary.
For this lesson you will need either the Smartboard Nonfiction Text Features.notebook or Activboard Nonfiction Text Features.flipchart lesson "Nonfiction Text Features." You will also need to make copies of the glossary question sets for the different books being used in this lesson for the independent practice section Animal Glossary Questions.pdf. You will want to make 2 double-sided copies for each set of partner groups. If you don't have these particular books, you can easily create question sets from the glossaries of the nonfiction books that you have in your classroom.
I started the lesson by telling the students the objective. I said, "In our last lesson about subheadings and bold words, we learned several different strategies to help us find the meaning of unknown words. Sometimes the author doesn't lend us clues in the text and those strategies won't work. So today we are going to learn another strategy to help us find the meaning of words we don't know. That is our objective today - we are learning how to use a glossary to find the meaning of words we don't know."
We then proceeded to work on the activities on pages 48-51 on the Smartboard lesson. We specifically worked on 1) looking at the unknown word, 2) finding the word in the glossary based on our knowledge of alphabetical order, 3) looking at the pronunciation guide, 4) viewing the pictures in the glossaries to strengthen our understanding (if the glossaries contained pictures), and 5) rereading the word in context. I called on several students and they practiced finding the word and following the steps to discover its meaning. I made sure that we did think alouds to model the thought processes students should use when doing this activity independently.
After we had practiced on the Smartboard, I presented the book "Ants" by Margaret Hall. I said, "When you get older and go to high school and college you'll have really thick books. Sometimes you won't need to read the whole book to find the information you are looking for or to learn the meaning of a word you don't know. Using a glossary to find out the meaning of a word you don't know will help save you time. I am going to model for you now how to answer questions by using my glossary. You will notice that I won't have to read the entire book."
The first question on my question set was, "What is a colony?" I modeled how to find the word colony in the glossary and then I read the pronunciation key and the definition. I also modeled how to rephrase the question in my answer. I said, "I need to rephrase the first part of the question in my answer. I am going to write ... A colony is a large group of ants that live together. Did you see how I was able to answer that question quickly by looking in my glossary?"
I continued to read the questions, find the words in the glossary and then answer the question in a complete sentence. After I completed my modeling, it was time for my students to do some independent practice.
I love to have my students work in heterogeneous groups because of the natural scaffolding and teamwork this type of grouping promotes. I had previously determined which students I would partner together and had my list ready.
I had previously taken 10 different nonfiction books from my classroom and developed questions based on each of the glossaries. I called out the names of the groups, students took their book and their questions, found a place in the room, and started to work. Since I had grouped my strugglers with a strong partner, I didn't have to lend any additional support. I was able to walk around the room and video my students working in partners.
The video is here: Practicing Using How to Use a Glossary.mp4. This may give you an idea of how the activity might look in your classroom.
If you've seen any of my other lessons, you know that I like my closures to be short and sweet. I gave each of my students a post it note. We were going to "post" something on our Facebook page (it's really a poster). I said, "I want you to post what you learned about a glossary today and why you think using a glossary is important." The kids wrote their posts and I was easily able to see what they took away from the lesson. I left the posts up so students could see what other students learned from the lesson as well.