Reflection: Real World Applications Plaid Pete Goes Aquatic! - Section 3: Vocabulary Instruction


One of the biggest reasons students have a difficult time determining importance in text, is that unknown vocabulary gets in their way, as in this Video Clip.  I know that even if I teach the maximum number of vocabulary words I can possibly teach in any one given year - it will never be enough.  This is particularly true for my second language learners.  What I must do - is teach them strategies for figuring out words in real world situations.  It is along the same line as that old saying, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." 

I have discovered it is fairly useless to ask students to "look it up in the dictionary" because not only are students' dictionary skills usually poor to begin with, but the dictionary definitions aren't written in "kid friendly" language so they don't understand them either.  Then, by the time they have looked the unknown word up, they have lost comprehension for the material they are reading.  I have found the most useful strategy to teach students is how to use Context Clues to derive meaning.

I use the student activities from the Florida Center for Reading Research to teach my students the 5 types of Context Clues:  definition, synonym, antonym, example, and general.  I reproduce the bookmarks included with these activities and my students use them throughout the year.

In this particular case, there were no context clues in the text to assist this student.  I teach my students in cases like this to ASK! Students are often hesitant to do this - I model asking for "kid friendly" word definitions in class when we are talking about words to build a language friendly culture.  When students see me asking for and talking about word meanings, they are more likely to do so themselves.  And when they are talking about language, I know they are learning.  

  Real World Applications: Teaching Vocabulary Strategies
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Plaid Pete Goes Aquatic!

Unit 2: Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems
Lesson 5 of 20

Objective: SWBAT identify the characteristics of marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Big Idea: What are the identifying characteristics of saltwater and freshwater ecosystems? Students work in "expert pairs" to determine importance in scientific text and then form "jigsaw" groups to teach their peers what they have learned.

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