K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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  • Learn new words using context: With guided practice students will use context clues to determine meaning of unfamiliar words in short passages. When students have completed the practice activities, they will read a newspaper or magazine article, picking out unfamiliar words and using context clues to decide what the word means. As a group activity they will share the article, the words, and their meanings with the class.
  • Preparing English language learners for reading comprehension: Use KWL charts, circle maps and brainstorming webs, and concept maps to prepare English language learners, content-area learners, and all students for reading comprehension.
  • Understanding vocabulary in their own terms: This lesson focuses on vocabulary development. Students will work together in small groups to identify at least three to four unknown vocabulary words in a given passage. Vocabulary meanings will be learned through contextual means, previous knowledge and dictionary use. Students will then find a relevant way to illustrate the meaning of the word so that others can understand easily.

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Learning outcomes

Students will apply contextual clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words in preparation for the North Carolina End of Grade test in Reading.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes

Materials/resources

  • Game Sheets (includes 6 pairs of unfamiliar word choices embedded within sentences)
  • Dictionaries
  • Highlighter markers, red marking pens
  • Clock or timer

Pre-activities

This activity is intended to serve as a follow up to previous lessons focusing on reading using contextual clues, dictionary study, structural analysis and cooperative/team activities.

Activities

  1. Begin with the following word written on the board : caltrop. Ask for volunteers as to this word’s meaning. After several oral responses, add the word into the following sentence and write it on the board:
    The medieval knight hurled the heavy iron caltrop and successfully killed the beast as one of its four curved prongs hooked and slashed through the center of the wild creature.
    After the sentence has been read, again ask for word. Skilled readers use all the information they have to unlock, or to comprehend the words they may not know. This activity will also serve as an informal group pre-assessment to determine contextual clue and comprehension abilities.
  2. Divide class into groups of 3 or 4. Space groups accordingly so group answers are not easily overheard.
  3. Provide each group with a “Which Word Is It?” game sheet, dictionary, highlighter pen, and a red marking pen.
  4. Provide general instructions for rules of play and purpose of the activity:
    In developing vocabulary and comprehension skills, we often use contextual clues to determine meaning of unfamiliar or unknown words. We use all of the words in the text that we do know, to try to make sense of the words we do not know. We also use the parts of words to add to a word’s meaning. The real challenge of this game is to use all of the context clues to determine meaning, but to also use your dictionary skills to determine which of the two word choices would fit most appropriately into the sentence. It is the team’s decision as to strategy of play to use. For example: who will use the dictionary - one person or will you take turns? Also, will you take turns reading, or will one person in the team be the reader? Finally, you should decide upon a writer and checker for the actual game sheet. All answers must be highlighted on the game sheet for official scoring purposes. The game will be timed for a total of 20 minutes. After 15 minutes of play a 5 minute warning will be given.
  5. After the 5 minute warning time period, call time. Ask that all game sheets are turned over and highlighters placed on desks.
  6. Answers are provided by teacher and discussed as teams check for accuracy. Points are scored for each correct word choice given. One person from each team will circle correct answers with red pen.
  7. After game sheets, dictionaries and pens are collected, students move back to individual seats.
  8. The following statement would be an option as to assessing individual understanding and comprehension relating to context clues and to review/follow up.
    Today we have used tools of intelligence,comprehension and communication to become more skilled in understanding the semantics of the English language.
  9. Repeat the sentence and write the word semantics on the board. Ask students to write their definition of semantics. Ask for a few volunteers to give oral definitions to end class. Ask that students turn in written definitions to provide individual assessments.

Assessment

  • Student oral responses during large group pre-activity.
  • Students’ communication and division of responsibilities in team/small group scenario during game activity.
  • Accuracy of vocabulary choices from game sheet vocabulary.
  • Written responses to review/follow up activity.

Supplemental information

Depending upon the grade and ability level, vocabulary words, grouping factors, and time constraints, the game format will vary. This activity was developed for students receiving reading remediation in preparation for the NC End of Grade Test in Reading. These students usually require motivational elements as a regular part of their remediation. I employ a token economy system on a consistent basis for all scores of 80%+. Students receive coupons which can be redeemed for various goals (homework passes, free computer time, free reading/study, pencils, notepads,etc.) For game winners, coupons were distributed. Also, this game can easily be individualized for classes lacking in abilities needed for team study.

The following is one example of the game sheet utilized with a 20 minute game within a 45 minute, 8th grade reading remediation class:

Which Word Is It?

Rules:

  1. Use context clues and the dictionary to choose the correct answer.
  2. Total time play is 20 minutes. After 15 minutes of play, a 5 minute warning will be called.
  3. When time is called all highlighter pens must be placed down on desks. (No answers are to be made following called time limit.)
  4. One person from team will check answers and mark correct answers by circling obviously highlighted answers, if correct, in red pen.
  5. Team with most correct highlighted answers will be declared WINNERS!!
  • Briton worked as an (ichthyologist, ornithologist) at the university and enjoyed spending vacation time tracking and sighting rare birds in Everglades.
  • Mr.Smith enjoyed teaching about biological functions and used an elaborate color (diaphram, diagram) to display the organs of the respiratory system.
  • Her prolonged eating disorder produced a condition of (anemia, anorexia) in her thin body.
  • Amy began singing as a child and her (fugal, frugal) talents continued to develop as she grew into a talented musician.
  • The recipe called for the yeast to act as a (catalyst, catharsis) for the homemade bread.
  • The fisherman walked along the bank of the Eurasian lake and discovered the (tench, tenrec)was still alive after having been caught several hours earlier.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 6
          • 6.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies. 6.L.4.1 Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s...
        • Grade 7
          • 7.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 7 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies. 7.L.4.1 Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s...
        • Grade 8
          • 8.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies. 8.L.4.1 Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 6

  • Goal 6: The learner will apply conventions of grammar and language usage.
    • Objective 6.01: Demonstrate an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression by:
      • using a variety of sentence types correctly, punctuating them properly, and avoiding fragments and run-ons.
      • using appropriate subject-verb agreement and verb tense that are appropriate for the meaning of the sentence.
      • demonstrating the different roles of the different parts of speech in sentence construction.
      • using pronouns correctly, including clear antecedents and correct case.
      • using phrases and clauses correctly (e.g., prepositional phrases, appositives, dependent and independent clauses).
      • determining the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words by using context clues, a dictionary, a glossary, a thesaurus, and/or structural analysis (roots, prefixes, suffices) of words.
      • extending vocabulary knowledge by learning and using new words.
      • exploring the role and use of dialects and of standard English to appreciate appropriate usage in different contexts.
      • developing an awareness of language conventions and usage during oral presentations.

Grade 7

  • Goal 6: The learner will apply conventions of application of grammar and language usage.
    • Objective 6.01: Model an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression by:
      • using a variety of sentences correctly, punctuating them properly, and avoiding fragments and run-ons.
      • using subject-verb agreement and verb tense that are appropriate for the meaning of the sentence.
      • applying the parts of speech to clarify language usage.
      • using pronouns correctly, including clear antecedents and correct case.
      • using phrases and clauses correctly, including proper punctuation (e.g., prepositional phrases, appositives, dependent and independent clauses).
      • determining the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words using context clues, a dictionary, a glossary, a thesaurus, and/or structural analysis (roots, prefixes, suffixes) of words.
      • extending vocabulary knowledge by learning and using new words.
      • determining when and where dialects and standard/nonstandard English usage are appropriate.
      • applying language conventions and usage during oral presentations.
      • choosing language that is precise, engaging, and well suited to the topic and audience.
      • experimenting with figurative language and speech patterns.

Grade 8

  • Goal 6: The learner will apply conventions of grammar and language usage.
    • Objective 6.01: Model an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression by:
      • using a variety of sentence types, punctuating properly, and avoiding fragments and run-ons.
      • using subject-verb agreement and verb tense that are appropriate for the meaning of the sentence.
      • applying the parts of speech to clarify language usage.
      • using pronouns correctly, including clear antecedents and case.
      • using phrases and clauses correctly, including proper punctuation (e.g. prepositional phrases, appositives, dependent and independent clauses.)
      • determining the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words using context clues, a dictionary, a glossary, a thesaurus, and/or structural analysis (roots, prefixes, suffixes) of words.
      • extending vocabulary knowledge by learning and using new words.
      • evaluating the use and power of dialects in standard/nonstandard English usage.
      • applying correct language conventions and usage during formal oral presentations.