is essential to comprehension. Students need to apply strategies before,
during, and after reading to understand texts. Journey North provides
a wealth of informational texts to help students learn about words in
Make a transparency of a Journey North informational page for the overhead
projector. Invite students to watch and listen as you read aloud the text.
Reflect aloud about word solving strategies you use before, during, and
after reading. Demonstrate pre-reading strategies such as scanning a text
for clues, asking questions, and making predictions. As you read aloud the
text, talk about how you figure out information about words, pronunciations,
and meanings (letter/sound relationships, context clues, and related words).
After reading the text, show students how to revisit the text to improve
Invite students to collect words from Journey North texts, and the context-rich
sentence(s) in which the words were found. Have students find definitions
using dictionaries and other reference materials.
the following ideas to organize the collection of words:
Book: Invite students to create vocabulary pages for a three-ring binder.
Wall: Display collected words and definitions on a bulletin board.
File: Record words, definitions, and context-rich sentences on index
cards. Place them in a recipe box that organizes the words alphabetically.
Create 3-5 incomplete sentences. Invite students to suggest words that
might fill-in-the-blanks. (Variation: provide a list of words for students
to use to fit-in-the-blanks.) For example, A robin’s ___________,
the place where __________ and __________ occurs, is usually less than
half an __________. Word List: mating, acre, nesting, territory.
Have students work in small groups for this activity. Give each group
a list of 3-5 vocabulary words. Collect a variety of dictionaries. Give
each group a different dictionary. Invite them to be Dictionary Detectives.
Ask students “What’s in your dictionary?” Have them
record all the information that they can find for each word using the
dictionary provided. (Code for pronunciation, word history, original meaning
or roots, meanings currently associated with that word, and different
spellings that are acceptable. The root section provides clues about how
the word came into current use.) Once the information has been collected,
have each group share and compare the data.
Use definitions of words to create word riddles. Give students clues about
a vocabulary word that has been introduced to them in a reading selection.
Encourage students to use details from the text to guess the mystery word.
Use more than one reading selection to ensure that students encounter
new words in a variety of contexts. Once students are introduced to words
in some context, provide opportunities to use the words in reading, writing,
listening, and speaking activities. For example, once students have been
introduced to the word metamorphosis, invite them to read or listen to
additional texts that provide more information. Have them write about
how caterpillars become butterflies. Have students draw pictures that
illustrate the concept of metamorphosis. Ask for volunteers to improvise
a short, narrated scene of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
Give students a list of vocabulary words. Have them sort the words based
on similarities and/or differences. Encourage students to describe how
they grouped the words.
Place a group of words in a set. Ask students to describe how the words
are related. Invite them to label the set based how the words are related.
Introduce additional words and ask students to decide which words belong
in the group and which words do not. Encourage them to share their reasoning.
After students have worked with sorting activities, invite them to play
games for additional practice. For example, play a variation of the card
game, Go Fish. Prepare a deck of word cards in which there are five or
more sets with exactly four related words in each set. Duplicate the cards
so that each group of two students has a deck for the game. The deck of
cards is shuffled. Players One and Two each receive five cards. The rest
of the deck is in the Go Fish pile. Players must try to build sets of
like words. Player One examines his or her hand of five cards and asks
Player Two: Do you have a word related to___? If Player Two has a related
word in his hand, he turns the card over to Player One. If Player Two
does not have a related card, Player One draws a card from the Go Fish
pile. Players take turns until the last card from the Go Fish pile is
drawn. The winner is the player with the most sets. The winner reveals
each set and states how the words are related. Example of a set of related
words for a Hummingbird Study: torpor, temperature, perch, and hypothermia.
Challenge proficient students to build sets of four related words for
Meanings: Denotation and Connotation
Denotative meaning refers to the limited explicit definition of a word.
Connotation refers to what the word may suggest. Help students discover
precisely what collection of meanings a word may convey. Go beyond definitions
in the dictionary. Explore ways to describe the associations that cluster
around the word. Invite students to collect literal and figurative meanings
for vocabulary words.
Choose a vocabulary word introduced in a text that students have read.
Ask students the following questions: How would a scientist describe this
word? (A scientist would provide exact definitions. A scientist focuses
on observable and measurable data/facts.)
How would a judge describe this word? (A judgment would reveal attitudes
people might have about a word.) How would a poet describe this word?
(A poet writes descriptive and expressive details.) How would you describe
this word? (Students’ responses will reveal personal associations
connected to the word.)
Here is an
example for the word HABITAT:
Scientist: The natural conditions and environment, such as forest, desert,
or wetlands, .in which a plant or animal finds what it requires for survival:
food, water, space, cover.
Judge: Endangered environments, Dwindling dwellings
Poet: Peaceful paradise, Home sweet home,
Student: Bedroom, My House, My Backyard
Examine words for similarities using the question: What do theses words
have in common: Motion, Mobile, Motor? (They are all related to the word
move.) What other words are related to the word move? (Migrate, migration,
immigrate, emigrate, automobile, snowmobile, motorcycle.) Encourage students
to use reference books such as The American Heritage Dictionary, The Shorter
Oxford English Dictionary, or Skeat’s A Concise Etymological Dictionary
of the English Language in order to research words.
Select 3-5 vocabulary words from an informational text students will be
reading. Write the list of words on the board. Add one or two “make-believe”
words. Ask students to predict which words from the list are real and
which words are fabricated. Encourage students to make predictions about
each of the words: What do you think these words mean? How do you think
these words will be used in a reading selection entitled _______? After
students have read the nonfiction selection, revisit the list of words
to confirm or refine students’ predictions.