Independent reading lesson: defining words in context

This lesson will require students to listen to the teacher read aloud. During the reading the teacher will pause and use the think aloud process to model how to clarify the meaning of new vocabulary.

The teacher will reread, read on and use the illustrations to help with clarifying. Additionally, the teacher might use syntax to assist this process. After modelling the strategy, students will be encouraged to use a similar strategy when reading independently.

Text details

Scary Night (Gibbes and King, 2015, Adelaide, SA: Working Title Press)

Text contains

Picture story book.

The text contains:

  • interesting vocabulary such as: dale, trail, paws, bold, brave, mystery
  • words that rhyme (eg: night, moonlight)
  • alliteration (eg: Hare with a hat, Cat with a cake, Pig with a parcel)
  • sentence boundary punctuation especially question and exclamation marks (eg: Where were they going in the dead of the night?)
  • font changes to signify mood

Links to the curriculum

Level one

Reading and viewing

Read texts with familiar features and structures using developing phrasing, fluency, phonic, semantic, contextual, and grammatical knowledge and emerging text processing strategies including prediction, monitoring meaning and rereading. For more information, see: Content description VCELY187

Explore differences in words that represent people, places and things (nouns, including pronouns), happening and states (verbs), qualities (adjectives) and details such as when, where and how (adverbs). For more information, see: Content description VCELA179

Level two

Reading and viewing

Read familiar and some unfamiliar texts with phrasing and fluency by combining phonic, semantic, contextual and grammatical knowledge using text processing strategies, including monitoring meaning, predicting, rereading and self-correcting. For more information, see: Content description VCELY221

Understand that nouns represent people, places, things and ideas and include common, proper, concrete or abstract, and that noun groups/phrases can be expanded using articles and adjectives. For more information, see: Content description VCELA216

Level three

Reading and viewing

Read an increasing range of imaginative, informative and persuasive texts by combining phonic, semantic, contextual and grammatical knowledge, using text processing strategies, including confirming, rereading and cross-checking. For more information, see: Content description VCELY256

Learning intention

We are learning how to use the surrounding text clues to work out the meaning of unknown words in a text.

Success criteria

I can use a synonym to help me work out the meaning of a word in a text I do not know. To do this I might reread or read on or use the illustrations or my knowledge of grammar to help me. I will share my thinking and my synonym with the class.

Role of the reader

Text Participant

Lesson sequence

  1. Introduce the learning intention and success criteria for the lesson.
    • Today we are learning how to work out the meaning of a word in a text if we don’t know it. I  am going to read Scary Night to you and when I come across a word I don’t know the meaning of, I am going to show you how to try and work it out.
    • You will have the chance to practise this skill when you read independently today. You will know that you are successful if you can come up with a synonym for the meaning of one of the words you do not know. A synonym is another word that means the same thing (eg: little and small are synonyms). To know what synonym to suggest, you will have to use the strategy of rereading, reading on, looking at the illustrations and using your knowledge about words.
  2. Begin reading Scary Night using phrasing, fluency and prosody.
  3. Pause after reading the word ‘dale’. Model think aloud process.  e.g. I don’t know what ‘dale’ means.
    • I will reread to see if that helps me. Reread. Because you can go over a ‘dale’ it must be a thing (a noun). ‘Hill’ is another noun so it must have to do with a place near hills.
    • I will read the next sentence to see if that helps. No, that doesn’t help me, it just tells me that they keep going.
    • I am going to look at the picture. It is a picture of hills. What other places are nearby in the picture? I wonder if ‘dales’ are the bits between the hills? I am going to think of a synonym to help me. I know ‘valley’ means the bit between hills. I will try that.
    • Later on when I finish reading I am going to look this word up in a dictionary to check and put it up on our class word wall.
  4. Continue reading.
  5. Pause after reading the word ‘bold’. Repeat the think aloud process. e.g. I don’t know what ‘bold’ means.
    • I will reread to see if that helps me. Reread previous 2 pages. The text is telling me that Hare, Cat and Pig are so scared they are shaking. They have to creep through a cave. They have to be quiet and be ‘bold’. This word is describing them. When a word describes something it is called an adjective. I have to think of an adjective that tells me about Hare, Cat and Pig.
    • I will read the next page to see if that helps me. This tells me they are trying to get away from grizzly bears. Grizzly bears are scary. Hare, Cat and Pig need to be the opposite of scared. I know you need a lot of courage when you are scared.
    • I am going to think of a synonym to help me understand ‘bold’. I can say ‘courageous’.
    • Later on when I finish reading I am going to look this word up in a dictionary to check and put it on our class word wall.
  6. Complete reading.  Students begin Independent Reading.
    • Reiterate success criteria. When you are come across a word you don’t know when reading independently, I want you to do the same thing as I just showed you to help you. At sharing time, I want you to have an example ready including a synonym for the meaning of the unknown word. Be ready to tell the grade what strategies you used to come up with the synonym.
  7. Whilst students are reading independently, the teacher works with a small group or individual student. With 5 minutes before the lesson closure, prompt the students to work independently to record their synonym in their reading response book and use dot points to outline the strategies they used to help them.
  8. Lesson Closure
    • Revisit the learning intention and success criteria. Select a cross section of students to share their synonym and the process they went through to determine it. Check the word meanings. Add to class word wall with correct definitions.
    • Ask students to rate how confident they felt with this process by doing a quick visual show using their body parts (heads up-successful, I tried-stomach, I do not understand-feet).
    • Collect reading response books to check student thinking. Use to inform future planning.

More information

For comprehension example lessons, see: Comprehension