Focusing Attention on Words: Vocabulary Instruction
Beers (2003)When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do, a Guide for Teachers 6-12.
Four types of clues that readers might use to figure out the meaning of an unknown word. Teach useful strategies for figuring out the meaning of a unknown word they encounter while reading.
Show students how to use each strategy is an important first step. Begin by modeling each of these while reading aloud. Model the thinking you use (or would use if you didn’t know the meaning). Then model that thinking again with words in the texts students are reading. After you have begun to model the thinking on a number of occasions, ask students how they went about figuring out what a specific word and to share their thinking they were doing to understand the unusual word.
- Definition clues
- author uses new word, then defines it.
- Cowboys often wear chaps, leather trousers without a seat, over their pants to protect their legs from thorns
- Restatement of information
- typically use more common vocabulary
- The soldiers looked haggard after the long march. General Hooker decided that these soldiers were too tired to begin an assault that day.
- Contrasting information
- A contrasting, but more common word to help explain the new word.
- General Lee was fastidious about his personal appearance, but General Grant was something of a slob.
- Gist Clues
- Readers have to use the sense of the passage and their prior knowledge to figure out new word meanings.
- They had marched on dirt roads for three days straight with the sun, the hot July sun, beating down on them. Each man was carrying not only his weapons but supplies as well. This sixty pounds of extra weight made the marching even more difficult. And this arduous journey was not over yet. Two more days of marching was needed to arrive at Ford’s Crossing and there was no sign the heat was going away.