Sturdy? Prod? Glisten? Infer the Meaning of the Words

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SWBAT determine unknown words by creating inferences based on schema and text evidence.

Big Idea

What's the word mean? Use inferences to define the words.


  • Eaglet's World by Don Freeman
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: inferring, evidence, schema, words, illustration, informational text
  • Set up the whiteboard
  • Eaglet's World powerpoint
  • 'Infer the Meaning' worksheet
  • screen and projector to show the video (look at the websites beforehand to familiarize yourself - I only showed about 30 seconds of each one) 


I chose this story because it has great information about eaglets hatching, which is related to our science unit. Reading about informational topics represents a shift towards building knowledge in the disciplines, a push for the Common Core Standards. The story line in the book is engaging and the illustrations are beautiful. I also think the kids can identify with growing up. Because this story is about an informational text topic, there's lots of opportunities for vocabulary work. The kids loved this book and the idea of a baby growing up to fly free.

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

  • Show the first powerpoint slide.  "We are doing more inferring with informational text today.  Take a look at the title and picture.  What can you infer?"
  • Take ideas - it's about eagle, baby eagles, eggs....
  • "How did you come to such good inferences? It sounds like you used your evidence (title and picture) and your schema (I know that eagles build nests, they have baby eagles, the eagles hatch from eggs.) 


My goal here is to engage the kids in the discussion about the text and give them a start on inferencing. This is the a lesson at the end of my inferencing unit, so my kids have a good idea of how to use evidence and schema to inference.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "Inferring can help us in many ways - describing a character, make predictions, determining cause and effect and defining vocabulary. Take a look at some of the vocabulary in this story."
  • Show powerpoint slide 2-3.  
  • "When we read a word we don't know, we use evidence from the text (words and illustrations) and our schema (what we know) to make a good inference." Slide 4
  • "Let's talk about that more: (slide 5) 
    • schema
    • text clues
    • picture clues
    • rereading of the text
    • thinking about it
  • "We going to use this organizer today to helps us define the words." (last slide)


Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • Read through the first few pages to get pace for the book  (stop at the page that starts with 'where eaglet was...')
  • "Here's a word I don't know - 'sturdy'. I'll write that word. I'm going to infer that it means a strong (write that) and I know that because the words say 'twigs made it strong'.  I'll write that too. Since I used 'text', I'll write a 'T' in the box."
  • "Here's a word I don't know - 'down'.  I know one meaning, but it doesn't fit here. The picture shows a nest with feathers so I'll infer that it means 'feathers' because the evidence in the picture. I'll write 'I' for 'illustration' in the box."


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Help me with another one." Read to the page 'Sometimes their wings...'  Is there a word you don't know?"  'whirred'
  • "What do we infer that means?"  How do we know that?"  (schema - I think I know what bird wings sound like) . Write sound and an 'S' in the box for schema.
  • This is what the whiteboard looked like after our discussion.


Students are using a variety of ways in this lesson to determine or clarify the meaning of unknown words in grade 2 reading content (L.2.4a). The focus is using sentence level context as clues for meaning, but if they offer other ways of defining words (such as root word, prefix, synonym, etc), encourage this. The kids come with a variety of language levels and there are words that some will know and some will not. The goal of determining meaning of unknown meanings is to find what works for each student, those who can use root words, others that use schema, and some that use evidence.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign Task

  • "Now I'll continue reading and see how well you can define the words."  I'll pause after each page and write a word or two. If you know what it means, you don't have to write it."
  • Read slowly and help students with spelling. Challenge those that say they 'know' the word.  


Read and let students work

  • Continue reading and write some words on the board. 
  • Remind students about using schema and evidence.
  • I did help with spelling by listing words on the board.
  • Challenge them to use good definitions. We did discuss a good number of the definitions and I encouraged the kids to go beyond the 'boring words', such as 'good and like' to more descriptive words.  
  • Here's an example of a completed worksheet that one student completed.


As students ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of key details in the text, they re reading closely to determine what the text says explicitly and cite specify textual evidence to support their definitions. (RI.2.1)  The study of text goes beyond enjoying a simple story. Students are interacting with the text, questioning, inferring, and using other reading strategies to truly bring their own schema and build that upon the evidence that the author presents.

Use What We've Learned

15 minutes

Use what we've learned

  • "We have some great words now that describe baby eaglets. I have 2 videos to show you and we can use those words to describe what is happening. Here's a list of words that we can look for in the videos."
  • "This is a video of baby eaglets ." Take a look and then we can talk about what we see, using our new words. (sturdy, down, grubs, rim, talon, wobbling) - I just showed a minute or so of this one.
  • "Let's talk about what we just saw.  Who can tell me what was in the video, using the words that we learned?"  My kids were able to describe 'the mom gives the baby grubs' and 'when she flies the wings are whirring'.
  • "Here is another video of eaglets starting to fly."  (whirring, nudge, scrambled, glisten, glint) "What can you say about the eagles in this video - use the words again."


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

Students with language challenges may struggle more in this lesson due to the advance vocabulary. I would suggest they sit with a partner or you write words on the whiteboard. They should try to make inferences, but may need help 'writing' out their schema or inference.

Students with higher vocabulary should be able to make good inferences. I would set an expectation of how many words they need to define because they may know most of the words. It's still a great expectation for them to cite the evidence or schema to support the inference. That is an expectation of the Common Core State Standards.