Lesson plan

Human Dictionary

When reading, we all encounter unknown words at times. But how do we figure them out? In this lesson, students learn how to become a “human dictionary” by using a variety of strategies to figure out the meaning of unknown words.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Vocabulary Focus pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
Grade Subject View aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Vocabulary Focus pre-lesson.

Students will be able to figure out the meaning of unknown words using various strategies and clues.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  • Ask, “What do you do when you’re reading and come across a word that you don’t know?” Write a few answers on the board.
(10 minutes)
  • Read aloud a page of a book to the class. Choose one word that you will work on figuring out the meaning of.
  • Briefly review the following strategies for figuring out the meaning of unknown words:
    • Where did the word come from? Think about prefixes, suffixes, and root words.
    • What would make sense? Use context cues.
    • Check in with your senses: Is the mystery word a sensory word?
    • Homophones & Homographs: Does the word sound like another word you’ve heard before?
    • Synonyms and antonyms: Do you know another word with a similar or opposite meaning?
    • Compound word: Is the word made up of smaller words?
    • Is it an abbreviation?
  • Use the strategies that are most relevant to the unknown word you selected to figure out the meaning of the word.
(15 minutes)
  • Have students work with a partner to find a book. Have partners locate a word that they are not sure of the meaning of and use one of the strategies you identified.
  • Ask pairs to share their sentence, word, strategy, and the word’s meaning.
(20 minutes)
  • Have students select a book at their reading level. As they read, have students complete the Read the Word Clues worksheet as they identify and figure out the meaning of unknown words.
  • Have students complete the Prefix, Suffix, Make Sense of It worksheet when they finish reading.

Support: Highlight the words that students should work to figure out the meaning of.

Enrichment: Have students check their definitions in a dictionary and make their own glossary featuring the words that they encountered.

(5 minutes)
  • Write a few simple sentences on the board. In each sentence, include one word that students probably won't know. Examples include:
    • My sister just bought a very unique dollhouse.
    • What's the purpose of wearing a helment?
    • Can you please disable the fire alarm?
  • Give the students a few minutes to figure out the unknown words, using one of the strategies they learned today.
  • Call on a few students to explain how they figured out what the unknown word meant and what strategy they thought was the most helpful.
(5 minutes)
  • Have students share some of the words and definitions that they worked with during independent work time.

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