New Words and Connecting Ideas

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SWBAT define new words and describe the connection between a series of historical events.

Big Idea

Define, Connect and Understand!!


  • Informational Text that with historical concepts that can be shown on a timeline.  I used The The Bald Eagle (to demonstrate) and my students used The White House, and The American Flag, by Tristan Boyer Binns - The author has written a many books about American symbols, which are all excellent.  You'll need one for each group, unless you're doing one book as a whole group.**
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: bold words, illustrations, timeline, glossary, heading, table of contents (whatever text features that your book has)
  • Set up the whiteboard
  • SIP chart (Sentence-Illustration-Parts of a Word)
  • lined paper
  • sentence strip for each group


I chose these texts because they have information about our Social Studies unit. These books are REALLY nice because they are at the 2nd grade level and have several short chapters about the history of the American symbol.  You can use any historical informational text with this strategy-just preview the text to make sure you identify the words to define and it has time-ordered events.

The Common Core standards encourage students to use academic vocabulary to build and use knowledge in the Social Studies and Science disciplines. In this lesson, students are defining vocabulary by using context clues and informational text features. (RI.2.4) They are then organizing this information in a timeline, which deepens their understanding of the concepts. (RI.2.3) By using the new vocabulary in the timeline, they are generalizing what they've learned.

I've done several lessons with the SIP strategy with informational text. They include What's the Word Mean-Informational Text and Wording Creates Images.


** I used an alternate text the second time I taught this lesson, because we were studying the colonies. The texts were a bit harder, but had excellent text features and the kids were fascinated with the information.

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)


Get students engaged

  • I showed the books about the American symbols. My kids had lots of ideas and lots of questions. Our discussion made them more eager to read the books.
  • We did a bit of connecting - "We've been talking about American symbols in social studies.  Do you see those symbols on these books?" and "Where do we see the flag?"
  • I typically will throw in a few vocabulary words that are in the book, "These are symbols." or "Yes, that's the seal for the US." 
  • This is how it sounded when I was bringing in background information.


Students' natural curiosity and a picture prompt (from the book) are many times all it takes to motivate students. They love to learn and have seen these symbols before so the connection and ability to bring in background knowledge naturally follows. 

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "Today we'll read our text and discuss the bold print that shows us new vocabulary. This vocabulary can help us put the historical events in order."
  • These books have LOTS of text features that help us - glossary, table of contents....   (I go through the word cards on the board). Here's how it looked when I introduced the task and answered questions about colors.
  • "We can use 3 things to help us find the meaning of new words. 
    • The sentence that the word is in
    • The illustration that might be on the page
    • The parts of the word.  
  • "I call this SIP (sentence, illustration, parts of the word)."
  • "We'll use this SIP today and connect the historical events."


Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • "When we have a new text, we always 'pre-read'.  We take a moment and look over the pictures, text and text features that might help us.  I notice this book has photos, pictures, words, headings, table of contents, glossary, and captions.  There's also a great couple of chapters of the book that tell about the history of the flag."
  • "I'll read up to the part about the history. In that section, I'll look for words that are in bold print or other words that I don't know. Then I'll stop and try my SIP strategy."
  • Read up to page 16 and reflect on the bold words.
  • "Let's try to SIP strategy and make a list with the words and and definitions."
    • "The first word is 'independent'.  I'll read the sentence again and try to figure out the meaning.  It says it's a country. We talked about it being 'free from England'.  I'll write that for the definition."
    • "The second word is 'founders'.  The sentence doesn't help, but there's a great illustration so I'll write 'people who started the country'."
  • "Let's try that again for the next 2 pages.....
    • "There's the word 'seal'... I know that word from the illustration on the cover so I'll write 'symbol that represents'."


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Let's do one together.... look at the next 2 pages.  The word is 'sworn in'. Can you help me look at the SIP strategy?"
    • "The sentence says does not help and the illustration shows only George Washington. 
    • Part of the word is 'swore' which is the past tense of 'swear', which means 'promise'." 
  • Here's a look at our discussion during guided practice about the vocabulary.
  • "Let's finish the bold words.  'Patriotism' is the last word... Have students use the SIP to determine the meaning. My students helped me write to 'love your country'. "

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Set up groups

  • Assign books to the students or groups.
  • If you are working in groups, go over the rules of good group work.
  • Here's a poster that my students made at the beginning of the year.


Assign Task

  • "I have a book for you to work on with your group." 
  • "Read the book and find the pages about history. Make a list of bold words and definitions.  You can include other words that you don't know as well.
  • Remember to use the SIP strategy - look at the sentences, illustrations, and parts of the word."
  • "Make a list of words and their definitions. When you're done, you can check the glossary to see if your definitions are correct."
  • This is an example of student's paper.


Formative Assessment

  • Walk around as students work. Ask them about their vocabulary and definitions. 
    • "Why did you pick that word?"
    • "Can you show me how you found that definition - sentences, illustration or part of the word?"
    • "Why did you write that definition?"
  • Remind students if they ask about spelling to use the text. Here's a discussion about using the text to spell words.

Share What You've Learned

15 minutes

Demonstrate the project: "We need to organize our ideas to show the history of your symbol. Typically we organize history ideas into a timeline."

  • "I'm going to draw a line and write the events in order, adding the dates if the book has them. Use some of the new vocabulary words that you wrote. I may want to do a little math to figure out the dates. I'll use my new vocabulary and ideas I've learned to show how the bald eagle became a national symbol."
    • "On page 16, there's the first date and event. I'll write 1776 and use the word 'founders' and 'independent' to write 'The founders made America independent'." This is how I demonstrated the project.
    • "It says '6 years went by', so I'll add 1776+6 and write 1782 and write 'The eagle was on the seal for America'. 
    • Here's what my completed teacher project looked like.


Assign the task

  • "Work with your group to create a timeline. Use some of your new words and remember to put the events in order. You may not have a date for each one, but put them in order."
  • When they're done, have students present their timeline to the class. 
  • Here's an example of a completed student project.


As students spend time working with a group to create the project, they are following agreed upon rules of discussion, collaborating and turn taking. This group work allows an expectation of active participation of all students (SL.2.1a), a key shift in the Common Core Standards. They are able to add to others' discussions, get clarification and practice the skill of collaboration that will be needed to be college and career ready.


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

When you work in groups, students have a chance to highlight their strengths. Make sure a capable student reads the chapter and another is in charge of writing. Students with academic challenges can still contribute to the discussion about the definitions and certainly help create the timeline.

For my group with the most academic challenges, I chose to lead them through the definitions. Here's how that looked when I prompted students with academic challenges.