Learning About Subheadings and Bold Words

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SWBAT use subheadings to find the main idea and SWBAT use context clues to determine the meaning of bold words in the text.

Big Idea

Say good bye to all the pre-teaching and front-loading. Students will use several strategies to learn the meaning of new words they encounter in text.

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

Do you remember following your basal reading series and, before you ever had the students read the story, you would pre-teach vocabulary and front-load tons of background knowledge? Well, say good-bye to doing that!  In order to put the emphasis on the text, we are going to do something outlandish - READ THE TEXT!

Today's lesson is going to tackle several standards. In this lesson you are going to teach students specific strategies so when they encounter new words, they can figure out the meaning of those words in a more organic way than having the teacher pre-teach them. Students will utilize bold words and subheadings to aid them in determining the new words. This addresses standards RI1.4 and RI1.5.

By showing students what subheadings are, and having them ask questions, such as, "What information might be in this section?", you are already promoting student thinking. By thinking about the content in a particular section, students will ask and answer questions of themselves to clarify the meaning of the unknown words.  This lesson also shows your students how to look at illustrations, read the word that follows the bold word, and read the sentences surrounding the bold word in order to learn the meaning of the unknown word.  This addresses standard RI1.7.

By teaching students these standards, you are helping them to be independent readers.  They won't depend on you for all the answers.  They will start to think and strategize in order to make sense of the text.   If they continually use the strategies that you are going to teach them today when they read, you are also setting them up for success in achieving the anchor standards in future years.  I think today's lesson really lends itself to attaining the anchor standard for RI1.4: CCRA.R4 - Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

For this lesson, you will need either the Smartboard Nonfiction Text Features.notebook or Activboard Nonfiction Text Features.flipchart lesson and the student practice sheets Animal Subheadings and Bold Words.pdf.  If, after previewing the lesson you feel you need to add more examples to today's lesson, you could also get any nonfiction text from your student library that utilizes bold words.

The student practice sheets are differentiated, short, nonfiction stories that I researched and wrote myself.  I intentionally wrote the stories so that students would have to think about the subheadings and then strategize by not only reading the bold words but also the sentences around the bold words in order to determine the meaning of new vocabulary that they were encountering.  I hope you enjoy my texts!

Guided Practice (We Do)

20 minutes

I called my students to the carpet and started by telling them the objective.  I said, "Today we are going to learn how to figure out words in a story we don't know by learning some strategies. We are going to think about what our subheadings are and also think about our bold words. Did you know that when I was a kid, nobody taught me to pay attention to subheadings or bold words in nonfiction stories? Yep.  And because I didn't pay attention to those text features, I had a really hard time understanding the text.  I'm going to teach you how to be a better reader than I was when I was a kid, so let's get started."

We did pages 10-20 on the Smartboard lesson.  These are the pages that strictly deal with subheadings and bold words.  We worked together, and students had the opportunity to practice strategies that showed them: 

  • The subheading is the main idea of the section.  All the sentences will be related to the subheading.
  • The bold word is the new or unknown word that the author wants you to learn.
  • Looking at the pictures may help you figure out the meaning of the unknown word.
  • Sometimes the words right after the bold word will tell you the meaning of the new word.
  • If you read the sentences around the bold word you may encounter clues to help you find the meaning of the bold word.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

As mentioned in the previous section, I created several reading passages that utilize bold words.  When I made these passages, I tried to write the text so that it was differentiated for my student's different reading levels. This is how I differentiated the passages by reading level:

  • Glow In the Dark Animals -  Highest Reading Group (Excelling Group)
  • Five Kinds of Apes - Second Highest Group (Above Level Group)
  • Predators - 3rd Highest Group (On Level Group)
  • Bugs - (Lowest Group)

I explained to the students that they were going to get a story based on what reading group they were in.  They were to read the heading of the story, and use the strategies like we had just practiced to answer the questions that go along with the story.  I asked them, "Does everyone understand what to do?"

I knew the text, "Bugs," would be very challenging for my lowest readers.  I brought them back to the reading table, and we read the story together several times.   Once I knew that they had a good understanding of what the text said I said, "Now you know the text well, and you will be able to answer the questions that go with the story."  I asked them one question at a time.  You can see how they did if you look for my reflection in this section.

You can see how all my student did in the video here: Finding the Meaning of Bold Words.mp4.


5 minutes

I wanted to see what each student took away from the lesson.  I have an amazing teacher aide who made a Twitter Poster.  I said, "We are going to tweet today.  I am going to give you a post it note.  I want you to tweet about what strategies that you thought were important and what helped you to answer your questions."  I wanted to see if the students could verbalize which strategies they used to help themselves out.  If they are cognizant of the various strategies, the more likely they will use them consistently.