EL Support Lesson

Learning New Vocabulary

In this lesson, students will identify new vocabulary words from a text read aloud. After selecting new words, they will create their own picture dictionaries to learn the meaning of each new word.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Finding the Right Books lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Finding the Right Books lesson plan.

In the lesson plan, Learning New Vocabulary children are introduced to early strategies such as rereading and looking at pictures, to determine word meanings. Geared towards kindergarten and first grade EL learners, this EL support lesson introduces early readers to the words "tricky," "reread," "drawing," and "unknown," to help determine the definition of new words. Building vocabulary is crucial to reading comprehension and critical to becoming fluent readers. A robust vocabulary builds strong-language skills that helps with communication!


Students will be able to define vocabulary words.


Students will be able to define unknown words in sentence level context using a picture dictionary for support.

(5 minutes)
  • Activate students' background knowledge by having them turn to a partner and share about a time when they didn't know the meaning of a word (either in English or their home language).
  • Read aloud a text to the class. Before reading, tell students that they will be finding unknown words. These should be words that students are not sure of the meaning of. Explain that not knowing the meaning of a word is nothing to be ashamed of—it's an opportunity to learn!
  • Model how to find an unknown word in the text.
(5 minutes)
  • Hand out the Vocabulary Cards to students. As you go over each word, have students locate the card for the word you are reviewing.
  • Tell students they will be looking for tricky, or difficult, words in the text. Sometimes these words are unknown, or not known.
  • To figure out unknown words, it can be helpful to reread the text. It can also be helpful to look at the drawings, or pictures.
(15 minutes)
  • Read aloud a page in the book. Locate an unknown word and write it on the board.
  • Show students how to reread portions of text to figure out the meaning of the tricky word. Model how to use context clues and related words to guess about the word's meaning. Show students how to use a dictionary as needed.
  • Read aloud the rest of the text, guiding students to raise their hands when they encounter unknown words. List the words on the board.
  • Hand out the Picture Dictionary worksheet and have students work with a partner to write at least five words, pictures, and definitions on their worksheets. Have students examine how the words they used in their picture dictionaries were used in the text. Go back to a few words to discuss how they were used in sentences.
  • Instruct students to fill in the sentence section of their picture dictionaries with sentences for each of their words.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students work in pairs to discuss the words they defined. Ask students to use the following sentence frame to structure their discussions:
    • The word I found was ____. It means ____. I can use it in this sentence: ____.
  • Challenge the students to have a discussion where they use as many of the target words as possible.


  • Allow students to define words in English or home language (L1).
  • Allow students to create sentences in teacher-led small groups.


  • Encourage students to work with partners to write a paragraph using all their target words.
  • Have students create their own sentences and orally share them with an elbow partner. Select 2–3 words for students to define. Write the words on their dictionaries and have students complete the drawing and definition sections.
(2 minutes)
  • Ask students to answer the following questions with the corresponding sentence stems:
    • Why is it important to figure out words we don't know in a story?
      • "It is important to figure out words we don't know because ____."
    • What are some strategies we can use to figure out what words mean?
      • "We can use ____ to figure out what words mean."
    • A new word I learned was ____.
      • "I learned ____. It means ____."
  • As students work, assess how they are articulating what they learned about figuring out the meaning of unknown words.
  • Notice how students are defining words. Are they using their own words or the word-by-word definition you gave?
(3 minutes)
  • Have students popcorn share sentences with their target words.

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