Wemberly Worried Expanding Vocabulary

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SWBAT use prior knowledge and context clues to determine the meaning of words in a story

Big Idea

Be a detective! Many texts have sayings that add to the meaning of the story, but students don't realize they have meaning. Students stop reading over these sayings and understand how they relate to story.


5 minutes

We have read Wemberly Worried. Today we are going to use context clues and prior knowledge to dig further into the meaning of some of the words and phrases used in the story.

In teaching the Common Core standards, I know students need to be adept at making inferences. My approach to Common Core is to help my students understand what the text is stating so that they can then extrapolate. Wemberly Worried has so many components to it. There are a lot of hidden clues within the text. My students need explicit instruction on how to find the clues to determine what the text is saying. Also, many of my students do not come with some of the background knowledge needed to determine the meaning of some of the words and phrases that are important to truly understanding why Wemberly is worried. In this lesson I am going to model for them how to find out what words in the text mean, by using pictures, context clues, knowledge they may already have on the topic, and direct instruction.

In the opening of this lesson, since we have already read the story, I am going to ask my students if they had any questions about the story still, if there was anything they still didn't really understand?

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Although this text does not have many complex words, there are many challenging things to comprehend in it where students get a chance to use prior knowledge to understand what the author is trying to say. Without the proper background knowledge, some of the author’s statements will not make sense. I discussed the following statements from the text and their meaning:

On Page 3 – “Mama, what if I shrink?” – Why would Wemberly think she would shrink? (Children who aren’t aware that water makes your skin shrivel/wrinkle will not understand this statement.)

On Page 7 – the noise the radiators made – What is a radiator? What kind of noise do they make? I have them look at the picture to help them see what one looks like. Not many people have them in their homes around us. I gave clues to what it might do, and they guessed it gave off heat. I had to explain that sometimes the water would make noise, and they could also make a whistling noise. They felt this was an interesting word that we should add to our word wall.

On Page 8 – At the playground... - Why would Wemberly worry about the chains on the swings, bolts on the slide, and bars on the jungle gym? Most of my students could tell me about the swings and the bars on the jungle gym because they have twisted and banged their heads a few times. However, many did not know what a bolt was. Once I explained what a bolt was, they were able to tell me she was afraid it would fall apart.

I didn't stop there though. Many of my students noticed grandma's shirts and other sayings on the walls of the house. We discussed what these meant too, and what that meant about grandma's character. They could tell that grandma did not worry like Wemberly. They also really liked some of the saying grandma wore. On their own time they were going to make their own posters of grandma's sayings.

This was another text clue that could have been lost in the text if students are only reading the words that are in the typed print. Without that explicit instruction, my students would not have seen the carefree side of grandma, and the balance that she brought to the family. Many students could relate that someone in the house did not worry as much as another, and that helps because then not everyone is freaking out all the time.

In the resource section you will find my class' favorite grandma saying understanding quote from wemberly.

Independent Practice

10 minutes

Using the reading book from our reading series and books from their book boxes, students will go back through familiar stories looking for interesting words. In their writing notebooks they will write down the interesting word, the sentence it was in, and what they determined it to mean. I asked them to find at least 3 interesting words. Here is an example: Wemberly interesting words student work.

An interesting word is any word that they like, is different, is unusual, adds humor to the story, or any word that they think someone else would like to know what it means. Here is another example: Wemberly interesting words. I want them to enjoy reading, and finding interesting words in their books helps them have fun. It also helps them pay closer attention, and understand more of what they are reading.

You can see some students working in this video Wemberly student work video.


5 minutes

Students share their interesting words and what they mean. We add them to our interesting word wall. This will allow them to refer back to them at any time, like if they wanted to use them in their own writing or if they found one in a story they were reading and forgot what it meant.