What's That Word Mean? Informational Text

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SWBAT use the SIP strategy to determine the meaning of words in an informational text.

Big Idea

Sentences, illustrations and parts of a word...these help us figure out the meaning of the word!



** I chose these texts because they are a part of our Social Studies unit. Students are using this information as part of an American Symbols unit. The Common Core Standards encourage students to build and use academic vocabulary to build knowledge in the Social Studies and Science disciplines. This lesson exemplifies a key shift in the CCSS towards developing students’ academic vocabulary across the disciplines. In this lesson, students are learning how to use context clues and informational text features to define the vocabulary. (RI.2.4)

I've done several lessons with the SIP strategy with informational text. They include Wording Creates Images and New Words and Connecting Ideas.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Common starting point

  • "I brought some words today that are part of our informational text."  My students asked me why the words are different colors.  Here's my explanation of the colored vocabulary.
  • Look over the words on the board and ask kids to help you define those words. Remind them that they are 'bold print', which means they are vocabulary words.
  • "How do you determine the meanings of these words?  Do you have a strategy?"
    • Often students will say 'I guess' or 'I look at the pictures'. My students seemed to have a variety of ideas, including 'reading the sentence' and 'I don't know'.  My goal is to help them find 1-2 strategies, such as the SIP strategy, that work consistently to define words.
    • You should also know that I'm starting with this discussion as a kind of formative assessment. Before I introduce strategies to help kids decode new words, I need to know what they do currently. Based on their answers, I'll know how to target my discussion.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "Today we'll read our text and discuss some more bold print. In many informational texts, the author use this text feature to introduce new vocabulary."
  • "When we see a word that we don't know, we can use 3 things to help us find the meaning.  These are the sentence that the word is in, the illustration that might be on the page, and the parts of the word.  I remember this by calling this my SIP (sentence, illustration, parts of the word) help."
  • "We'll use this SIP help today to find the meanings of the words. Once we figure out a meaning, we can reread the sentence to make sure it makes sense!"


Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • "When we have a new text, we already 'pre-read'.  I'll take a moment and look over the pictures, text and text features that might help us.  I notice this book has lots of informational text features - photos, pictures, words, headings, table of contents, glossary, and captions.  Wow, those will really help me too."
  • "Now I'll read and when I come to a word that I don't know, I'll stop and try my SIP strategy."
  • Read the first 2 pages and reflect on the bold words.
  • "Let's try to SIP strategy for those 2 pages.
    • "I'll read the sentence and try to figure out the meaning of liberty. The next page says 'freedom' so I'll write that for the definition. If I read the sentence and say 'freedom' instead of liberty, it makes sense."
    • "For the word torch, the sentence doesn't help me, but if I look at the illustration, I understand the word because I can see the picture. If I reread the sentence with my definition, it makes sense."
    • "I know what symbol is because I've heard that word before."
  • "Let's try that again for the next 2 pages.....
    • "There's the word tablet... The sentence says it's in her left arm and the illustration shows it so I understand that word. Check by rereading... that makes sense."  This is how the guided practice looked.


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Let's do one together.... look at the next 2 pages.  The word is immigrants. Can you help me look at the SIP strategy?"
    • "The sentence says does not help, but the illustration shows what an immigrant is."  
    • "I also know that the word 'immigrate' is part of this bold print, so I think its about people who came to America. Reread and check - that's a good definition."  Here's our discussion about this example of 'p' for parts of word.
  • "Let's do one more on the next 2 pages. The words are ferry, pedestal, and balcony.  I'll look at the sentences, illustrations and parts of the words and see what helps us."  For these examples, I defined a word incorrectly and then re-read. I had to adjust my definition for the students.  
  • Here's our completed whiteboard.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign Task

  • "We have learned so much about the Statue of Liberty!"
  • "Now I brought another book about an American symbol, the Liberty Bell, and you will have a chance to find the meaning of words using the SIP strategy."
  • "Use your organizer and list the words that are in bold print.  Then think about SIP strategy and try to figure out what the words mean. Circle 'S' or 'I' and 'P' to show what really helped you determine the meaning of the word."  There were some repeating words in this book.  Here's how I explained how the student could skip the repeating definitions.
  • "Reread the sentence with the definition - check to see if it makes sense.


Formative Assessment

  • Walk around as students work.  How are they determining the meaning?  Are they using the strategy?
  • Ask them why they chose S, I, or P and ask them to show you specific evidence
  • Here's an example of prompting students and formative assessment.

Share What You've Learned

15 minutes

Show and compare

  • "Now there's a text feature in this book that gives us definitions - the glossary. Let's compare our definitions and see if we were right."   Take a few moments to do this.


Create the Project

  • "Now that we have a list of words, let's think about what are important for our topic."
  • "I have a picture of our topic I read about - the Statue of Liberty.  I wrote the important words on the front next to my picture - it adds meaning."  Here's my project.
  • "I'm passing out a picture of the Liberty Bell.  Add your words to the topic."
  • As the kids work, ask them why they are choosing those words."
  • At the end, discuss what words were chosen most - those are the words that really describe the topic.
  • This is an example of a student's completed project.


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

Students with academic challenges should perhaps work with a partner to read the text and try to define words. They could help look at the illustrations and the partner could perhaps read the sentence. 

Students with more vocabulary and language should be challenged to create a true 'definition' of the word vs just a phrase or synonym. They typically have a higher level vocabulary and may already know a word, but informational text tends to have more specific vocabulary that they may not be familiar with.