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Lesson Four


Essential Element: Vocabulary



Use resources to determine meaning of technical and specialized vocabulary

  • R.11.5.6

  • R.11.6.6

  • R.11.7.6

  • R.11.8.6


Use context clues to select appropriate dictionary definition

  • R.11.5.10

  • R.11.6.10




Prior to reading expository texts/passages, students should be taught technical and/or specialized vocabulary. Research has shown that preteaching the vocabulary helps students make casual connections, which benefits… students (Medo and Ryder, 1993). These connections will enable the students to retain and comprehend what is being taught.




  • classroom text

  • poster/chart paper or overhead projector

  • markers

  • sticky notes



Direct Explanation:

Today we are beginning a new unit of study in Science titled ‘Protecting and Preserving the Environment’. I have listed the vocabulary for the first lesson on the chart paper. The terms we will study today are: succession, pioneer plants and climax community. Before we begin reading the lesson, we will develop a set of classroom definitions for these terms that we understand and will help us to better remember the meanings of these words.”




Our list of words is ‘succession’, ‘pioneer plants’, and ‘climax community’. Using your textbook, look up the definition in the glossary for each of these words. Use a sticky note to mark the definition in your text.” (Give students about 5 minutes to do this. When time is up or all students have marked the entries, call on students to read the definition to you. Write the textbook definition on the chart paper or overhead.)

Let’s look at this definition for succession… Let’s think of another way to say the same thing in words you understand.” (Give opportunity for students to respond, maybe 1-2 minutes.) “Now, let’s write down as a group our own definition for succession—the way that plants and animals come after each other in an ecosystem.” (Post student generated definition next to textbook definition.)



Guided Practice:

Now you will work with your table partner(s) to define the word ‘pioneer plants’. You are to talk among yourselves and come up with a definition. I will give you 2 minutes to do this.” (After 2 minutes, call the groups back.) “The textbook definition for pioneer plants is …………. What is your definition for your group? Let’s post it on our chart.”




You will have 5 minutes to complete the definition for the last term—‘climax community’. You are to work as a group to define the term. When your group has decided on a definition, one person will need to write it down. Everyone in the group will need to sign their names to the definition and then turn it in.”


Possible follow-up applications could be:

  • Using each word in a sentence and illustrating the sentence to demonstrate comprehension

  • Completing crossword puzzle with student generated definitions used as clues


Possible assessments could be:

  • Multiple choice test with student generated definitions restated

  • Matching word to student generated definition

  • Matching textbook and student generated definitions



Tier II Additions/Accommodations:

  • Textbook definitions already found and placed on a worksheet

  • Assign leadership roles in the group to ensure participation by all members

  • Ability to dictate answer to peer


Assessment: Divide vocabulary terms by chapter lessons (into smaller chunks) and match the term to the student generated definitions.






Tier III Modifications:

  • Use picture cues for vocabulary terms

  • Work with individual paraprofessional or co-teacher

  • Dictate responses to peer or adult

  • Require students to define only the most important vocabulary in the lesson

  • Individual student glossary/word wall for student to keep at their desk or in their notebook so they can refer to it during reading


Assessment: Match picture examples to vocabulary terms.



Tier IV Modifications:

  • Student keeps a “word notebook” at their desks, with pictures/icons/symbols that would help them increase their specific vocabulary

  • Allow various response mechanisms


Assessment: Match picture examples to vocabulary terms.



Tier V Modifications:

  • Pre-teach vocabulary using various modalities

  • Use pictures/icons/symbols to further enhance understanding

  • Demonstrate the meaning of various specific vocabulary

  • Give student a “word notebook” that contains the pictures/icons/symbols that would help them identify the vocabulary


Assessment: Match picture examples to vocabulary terms






Medo and Ryder (1993) Report of the National Reading Panel, p. 4-20


Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002) Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, The Guilford Press


Copyright © 2006 Arkansas Department of Education. All rights reserved. School districts may reproduce these materials for in-school student use only. No resale. Materials may not be reproduced, distributed or sold for Commercial use or profit. ADE employees are not authorized to waive these restrictions.

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