School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 7

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 1.0 General Reading Processes

Topic D. Vocabulary

Indicator 3. Understand, acquire, and use new vocabulary

Objective a. Use context to determine the meanings of words

Materials needed

Required Materials

  • An appropriate text for reading aloud
  • Copies of the selected text for each four member group. These texts should not be distributed until the teacher has read aloud.
  • A list of at least nine unfamiliar or interesting vocabulary words. One is needed for each four member group plus one for the teacher.
  • An age-appropriate dictionary and thesaurus for each four member group.
  • A sheet of newsprint with one unfamiliar or interesting word printed on it for each four member group.
  • A marker for each four member group.


Prior to the activity, the teacher will choose and read an appropriate text and list words that may be unfamiliar to or interesting to students. Before reading the selected text to them, students should be divided into groups of four where each student will be given a responsibility. One student will serve as Scribe and is responsible for writing the group's information. Another student will be the Reader who is responsible for reading/presenting the group's information. The remaining two students will be Locators who will find certain words in the dictionary and thesaurus.


To begin the activity, the teacher will tell the class that he/she will read a selection aloud to them for the purpose of working with individual words. Once the reading is complete, the teacher will choose one of the previously selected words and model the context strategy that students will use in their small groups. At this point, each group should receive a copy of the text. Guide students to the page and location of the selected word. Have a student read aloud the selected area of text. Students and teacher should discuss their ideas about the meaning of the selected word. Students should be encouraged to use their knowledge of root words, prefixes, and suffixes to define the word. Attempts to define the word can be accomplished verbally through discussion, nonverbally through body movements, or graphically through drawing.


Once students have settled upon a definition for the selected word, a Locator should read the official definition from a dictionary. This definition should be written on the newsprint. Students may suggest synonyms for the selected word after which a second Locator reads synonyms from the thesaurus. These synonyms should be written on the newsprint. Finally, students should suggest real world connections for the selected word by offering ideas about how the word can be used outside of the context of the selected text. These suggestions should be written on the newsprint.


Now students are ready to work independently in their small groups. The teacher should assign each group another of the pre-selected words. Students should duplicate the process by determining a contextual meaning for the word, a dictionary definition, a series of synonyms from the thesaurus, and concluding with connections to prior knowledge and to real life. Each of these should be written on the group's newsprint.


Suggested Layout for Chart

Connections to:
Prior Knowledge:
Real Life:

Finally each group will share its findings with the other members of the class. The teacher should direct the focus of each of these words back to the selected text. To conclude, each student in the class should select one word which has been presented and compose his/her own definition for the word and an illustration of the word which can be reviewed by the teacher through a walk through the classroom.


Prior to this activity, the teacher should identify 2-3 high frequency words that students will learn through contextual clues. Once the words have been selected, the teacher will select a text where the words appear. Then students will be introduced to the following chart that details the types of context clues a reader might use to determine the meaning of an unknown word. Next, students will read the selected text aloud pausing to determine word meanings from context. To determine the meanings, students will suggest a meaning, cite from the text specific context clues they used, and using the chart identify the type of clues they are. (Teacher Note: Over time, this activity should be modified. Initially, this procedure focuses students on the process of determining words through context, but as students become more proficient, the specificity of this activity should not be necessary.)


Preparation for this activity requires the teacher to prepare a series of sentences that contain unfamiliar words for which there are context clues. Each sentence should have the unfamiliar word highlighted in one color and the context clue/s highlighted in a different color. The teacher should present these sentences to students and through a think-aloud explain how the context clues help a reader understand the meaning of unfamiliar words. Once think-alouds have been modeled, students should be given additional sentences where they highlight unfamiliar words and context clues to explain how the clues are helpful. To increase the cognitive demand, the teacher should include sentences, which may have unfamiliar words but no context clues to assist understanding with other sentences that have unfamiliar words but do have context clues.

Resources for Objective 1.D.3.a:
LESSON SEEDS | Sample Assessments | Public Release Items |