Laying the Foundation Day 2

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SWBAT use text and picture clues to learn new or unfamiliar words.

Big Idea

Your student’s attention will become razor sharp when learning new or unfamiliar words.


Common Core Connection:

Close reading is one tool in the Common Core toolkit that allows students to take ownership of their learning.  Through this process, they develop the habits of looking closely at what they are reading to make connections to what they already know.  It also allows me to help my students to learn how to assimilate new textual information and taking more responsibility in their own learning.

Lesson Overview:

In yesterday’s lesson I purposely did not give my students the meanings to new or unfamiliar words.  Instead they read their literary story Fireflies for Nathan, by Shulamith Levey, and noted new words on their activity sheets.  In today’s lesson I put students in groups and assigned each group a word or phrase from the list they created the day before, they then used picture and text clues to determine what the new words meant.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 8: Our Earth, Fireflies for Nathan, by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim

(If you do not use this curriculum try: Treasure Hunt, by Allen Ahlberg) 

  • Words I Want to Learn Activity Sheet (completed by the students from the previous lesson)
  • Word List Cards: Pre-made teacher cards each with one of the words from the student created list on it


5 minutes

I started today’s lesson with my students on the rug and asked them to retell the events in Fireflies for Nathan.  I did this by having them partner share first and then called on students who raised their hands to share what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of this story.  Once they were finished re-telling the story I reminded them that the day before they created a list of words or word phrases that they were unsure of the meaning.  Today, I told them, they would work in groups to re-read and look at the picture clues to find the meanings of these words.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

At this point I had my students stand up and stretch, (it is important to give first graders stretch breaks, because they get restless and bored just sitting).  They then walked to their desks.  Once at their desks I showed their list of words on the Promethean board.  (This list was compiled after I met with each reading group the day before)  The list included: Queen Anne’s lace, goldfinch, star the grass, beacon of light, and red streaked sky.  After reading the list together I used ‘red streaked sky’ as an example and said:

  • “red streaked sky, I wonder what it means”.  (I purposely chose this example, because the picture clue is very obvious) 

As my students shook their heads, I again wondered:

  • “How can I find out”?

A few students raised their hands and answered ‘from the story’, which was heading in the direction of the answer I was looking for.  I continued by asking my students:

  • “Explain more about how you get the answers from the story”.

This time a couple of students responded, ‘by looking and the pictures and reading the words again’.  With that answer I modeled how to read the passage again that had that word phrase.  Explaining to my students to put their book marks under the phrase when they found it during their re-read and to look closely at the picture, paying close attention to the sky.   Then I asked: ‘Why would I pay close attention to the sky in the picture’?   As several students called out because that is what we are trying to find out, a few more exclaimed, ‘now I get it, the clouds look like red lines'!  You can almost see the 'ah-ha' moment on these boy's faces in the picture: Red Streaked Sky.  

I wanted them to make the connection that sunsets are sometimes red; meaning this part of the story takes place in the early evening.  To do this, I directly asked if any of them had ever seen a red sky, and if so, what time of day was it red?  After giving them a moment to think about this, I called on students who raised their hands to share their answers.  Nearly all students who had their hand up shared out that they had seen a red sunset before and that meant it was turning to night.  After hearing their answers, I asked: ‘What does red streaked sky mean’?  This time they all answered the sky and clouds were red because it was sunset and almost night-time, or something similar to that.

I then explained they would work in their reading groups to discover the meaning of one of the remaining words on the Promethean board.  When each group was finished with their word we would re-group and each group would share the meaning of the new unfamiliar word.

Collaborative Activity

20 minutes

I then had my students stand up by their reading group colors (I have four reading groups designated by color) and bring their anthology books with them as I sat them in different corners of the room.  Before I assigned each group a word, I further divided each group in half.  I did this because I have four reading groups of six children each.  I have found for this type of Collaborative Activity, where students are re-reading and discussing, it is better to have three children in a group.  Once they were in their smaller groups I explained each group would get a card with one word or phrase and the page number it is on.  They were to re-read only that page, find the word or phrase, and work together to discover its meaning.  (I purposely did not tell them to look at the picture because I wanted them to remember to use that strategy on their own)  I then passed out pre-made teacher cards with one of the words from the student created list on it, making sure each divided reading group got the same word. (See Preview Section: Word List Cards)

As my students worked I met with each group to make sure they fully understood the directions and were only re-reading the one page.  This is demonstrated in the video, Green Group: It Looks Like Lace, where I am checking in and asking if the group agrees.  When all the divided groups were finished, I had them re-group in their whole reading group and directed them to share with each other what they discovered their word meant, as seen in the video, Yellow Group: Beacon of Light, the reading group had re-grouped and after discussing their work agreed the word 'beacon' means light.  I also instructed them to choose one or two students to share with the class what their word meant.  The video video, Sharing What they Learned, shows two students from the beginning reading group explaining what Queen Ann's Lace is.  I usually try to have my students share-out like this because it gives practice sharing and confirming their work with peers.  When all the groups were finished we met on the rug where the selected students from each group shared the new word meanings.

It was at this time I reminded my students that author's chose and use words carefully to make the story more interesting.  To demonstrate this I re-read parts of the story using generic words, such as 'flower' instead of 'Queen Anne's Lace', and asked which reading did they like better.  They all agreed the one with the more detailed words.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

During our Independent Practice rotation block my students are in their differentiated reading groups and rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through reading areas that include journal writing, independent work, computer work, and reading with me.  Today during their journal writing rotation my students used the information they got from their peers and the text to describe the new words they learned today.  For example in the video, Describing Queen's Anne Lace, we see the same student who discovered the meaning of Queen Ann's Lace and who shared with her peers, now describing it in written form.  Her writing sample is also an example of writing across the curriculum because she is taking elements of what she learned from our writing block and incorporating them in her journal writing.  The student describing a beacon of light in the video, Putting it in Her Own Words, is in a higher reading group, however is only writing just enough to write to the prompt.  This tells me that during instructions I need actually state 'remember to use what we learned from our writing time'.

During their independent work they also drew detailed pictures of what the new words were and labeled them. These pictures were used for their Ticket Out the Door.  I checked their journals during their rotation time with me.  

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

In order to receive a sticker my students had to show me their pictures of the new words we practiced and explain which word each picture represented and how they knew to draw it the way they did. Some examples of the drawings are included in the pictures: Students Drawings.