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Tips for Common Core Word Study Activities

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to common core vocabularypresent this tip from Vocabulary at the Core: Teaching the Common Core Standards, by Amy Benjamin and John T. Crow. Because vocabulary is at the core of all learning and communicating, and because the Common Core State Standards emphasize word study in English class and across the curriculum, this sample lesson includes a chart that can be used to teach students how to use context to understand an unknown word.

Context—information that exists outside the word—is a major source to tap when analyzing new words. Quite often, students need some guidance and assistance in learning to look for clues in the language and events that surround an unknown word. Tell students not to stop reading as soon as they encounter an unknown word. Often, contextual clues come in sentences that immediately follow the new vocabulary item. Teach students to keep relationships from one sentence to another in mind as they read. Nurture in them the habit of linking the end of one sentence to the beginning of the next.

The single most important thing you can do to help your students see how to guess words from context is to show them how you do it by employing multiple strategies. The process takes very little class time. Tell them that you are going to pretend to be one of them, showing them how you find clues to words that you think might be problematic for them. Then read a short passage out loud to your students, stopping to think out loud as you process information. Remember that the purpose of this activity is not to teach specific words, but to demonstrate strategies that you use to figure out what words mean or how you derive meaning from a text.

After modeling the skill, practice the skill with the following classroom activity:

  1. Give students short passages with nonsense words inserted for known words. Students then work in groups to come up with best guesses of the original words. When everyone is finished, compare answers and the reasoning processes that were used.
  2. Divide students into small groups and give each group a passage that contains some words that students will either not know or might be confused by.
    • Hand out an Unknown Word Chart filled with the targeted words.
    • Groups fill in the Predicted Meaning column with their best guesses before reading the passage.
    • They work together to derive their best guesses from the passage, putting them in the third column.
    • In the fourth column, they can either jot down how they derived their meanings (Context Clues) or look up words in a dictionary for comparison.
    • When everyone is finished, compare answers and the reasoning processes that were used.
    • Have students find short passages and underline words that they think their peers will not be able to define. Exchange passages and complete an Unknown Word Chart as described above.
Word                    Predicted Meaning
(No Context)   
Guessed Meaning
(From Context)

Context Clues
or Dictionary Meaning

First Word      
Second Word      
Third Word      

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