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At School: Student Action Words (Vocabulary)


Strategy: SAW--Student Action Words

Rationale: There are three types of word learners in your classroom:

  • Neurologically Spontaneous Word Learners, who learn words naturally as they read them in context

  • Impoverished Word Learners, who come to school with little word knowledge due to a lack of a home literacy culture

  • Impaired Word Learners, who have trouble building vocabulary due to learning problems

We, as teachers, need to be aware of the variety of word learners in our classroom and differentiate our strategies accordingly. One strategy that works well for all types of word learners, if modified properly, is the SAW strategy. Due to its flexibilty, spontaneous word learners are able to challenge themselves with complex context clue strategies and original application of vocabulary, while impoverished and impaired word learners create context for their own challenging words by connecting them to the context of the text and making visual representations to trigger retention of the new vocabulary. This is an easily applied strategy for any text and any word learner in your classroom.

Content/Grade: Can be adapted to your content

Quick Look/How it works: This strategy works well for all types of vocabulary word learners. It can be differentiated to be both helpful to struggling readers and challenging for stronger readers. Students complete the following chart for words that they come across in their reading.


Full Explanation of Activity:

Because my students are already grouped in different book clubs and each group is reading a different novel, my lesson utilizes some of the techniques related to the Vocabulary Self Selection strategy as students will be coming to a consensus about the best vocabulary from their book club books. In my lesson, I model the SAW chart with a chapter from the book Fever: 1793 by Laurie Halse Anders and model how to choose words, use context clues to guess meaning, and find resources to define words. Students will then work together in their book club groups to identify their vocab words, analyze context clues, define words, and choose the best words to teach the class. Chosen words will be posted in their interactive notebook. This will be an ongoing process as students build their own vocabulary word bank, teaching them the metacognitive skills needed to attack new words in what they read along the way.

Definition of the words selected: (words from Fever:1793)

Rouse- to awaken

Droned- to speak in a dull, monotonous tone

Abhorred- regard with disgust and hatred

Dawdling- move and act too slowly

Stays- support garment used in 1700; like a corset

Teemed- to be full of or swarming with

Anvil- a heavy iron block on which heated metal is shaped by hitting it with a hammer

Wharves- a flat structure that is built along the shore of a river, ocean, etc., so that ships can load and unload cargo or passengers

Vowed- promised

Student-friendly explanations:

Rouse- in the book, Mattie's mom tells her to rouse herself. She’s telling her to wake up. (pg. 1)

Droned- in the book, Mattie’s mom droned on and on. This means that Mattie thought her mom’s words were dull and went on and on, as if she weren’t listening. (pg. 2)

Abhorred- in the book, Mother abhorred mice. This means that she was disgusted by them and hated them. (pg. 3)

Dawdling- in the book, Mattie says that she should get dressed and not dawdle anymore. This means that she was taking her time before. (pg. 3)

Stays- in the book, Mattie describes getting dressed by fastening her stays. I can visualize that she had to put on something tight around her before putting on her clothes. This is probably not comfortable. (pg. 3)

Teemed- in the book, the street teemed with horsemen, carts, and carriages. This means it was very busy and swarming with people and traffic. (pg. 4)

Anvil- in the book, Mattie could hear the blacksmith hitting his hammer on the anvil. This was a heavy iron block, so it must have been very noisy. (pg. 4)

Wharves- in the book, the ships were tied to the wharves on the Delaware River. This must be where cargo was loaded and people boarded the ships. (pg. 4)

Vowed- in the book, Mattie vowed to be free of the ropes that held her. This means that she promises herself that she will be independent or do something adventurous. (pg. 5)

Before Lesson:

Ask students the following questions to activate prior knowledge and prepare for the lesson:

  • What do you do when you come across a difficult word in your reading?

  • Why is it good to have a strong vocabulary?

  • How can we build up our vocabulary?

Teacher dialogue (suggestions):

  • Reading definitely builds our vocabulary. The more you read, the stronger your vocabulary becomes. We can use vocabulary strategies to help us understand the words we come across, and we can build our own personal vocabulary word list. Today we’re going to learn to identify those words, use clues to guess their meaning, and define those words. Later, you are all going to impress us with your vast vocabulary knowledge and teach your words to the class, making us all even smarter!

During Lesson- Day 1 (modeling and practice):

Teacher hands out copy of chapter 1 of Fever: 1793 and instructs students to have highlighter ready as the chapter is read aloud. Read chapter 1 all the way through, and pause at each of the above words. Tell them to highlight the words. Use a think aloud strategy to show how words are chose.

Teacher dialogue (suggestions):

(Modeling) As I read, I will be looking for new and challenging words. We are going to highlight the words as we come to them and go back to them afterwards. When you are doing this in your book, you may use a post-it note to do the same thing since you can’t highlight in the book.

(After reading the word “rouse”,) “’Rouse yourself this instant!’ Oh, I am going to highlight the word rouse right here, even though I think I know what it means from reading the sentence. It’s a good word to know and we don’t usually use that word very much. I think it would be a good one for my dictionary. Highlight the word ‘rouse’. (Continue reading. Stop at the word ‘droned’.) Droned is another word that would be good to know. I can visualize this sentence, so I can guess what the word means, but want it in my word list. (Continue reading. Do the same with the word ‘abhorred’ and ‘dawdling’. Stop after the paragraph with the word ‘stays’.) Let’s highlight the word ‘stays’ in this paragraph. While I can tell she is talking about how she is getting dressed, I can’t quite visualize this since I don’t know this vocabulary. (Continue in this same manner, until all the above words are highlighted.)

Now, we that we are done choosing our words, we are going to add them to our personal dictionary. (Hand out the SAW charts.) We’re going to chart two of the words today. Let’s chart the word ‘abhorred’ to start.

Questions to ask students (with the charting of ‘abhorring’):

  • Write down the sentence the word is in. What do you think this word means?

  • How did you come to this prediction? What context clues helped you out?

  • How can we find the actual definition?

  • What are some different forms of the word? (abhor, abhors, etc.)

  • What are some synonyms for the word? What are some antonyms?

  • How can we use this word in a sentence?

Questions to ask students (with the charting of ‘stays’):

  • What predictions do you have for the word?

  • Why is it important to make a prediction first?

  • What do you do if the definition doesn’t seem to be like your prediction?

  • How can you find more information about this word within this context?

Resource to use through Google search:

  • What can we visualize with this word?

Glue your charts in your Interactive Notebook. As you are reading your book club book tonight, put post-its next to your Super Vocab words.

Day 2: Book Club Practice

Review SAW strategy. Opening question: What kind of information did we write down last time when creating our personal dictionary?

Teacher dialogue (suggestion):

Today you are going to meet with your group to decide the best vocabulary words to teach the class.

Questions for students:

  • What made you choose your vocabulary words?

  • What kind of words would be good to teach the rest of the class?

I chose my two words yesterday for different reasons. I chose ‘abhorred’ because it seems like a word I would see and hear and even use. It’s a cool way to say how strongly I hate something or am disgusted by something. I chose the word ‘stays’ because it would be a good word to know if you are reading this book, so you can visualize what the clothing was like in this era.

Now, I want you to look through your words you marked in the last chapter you read, and

think about your reasons for choosing your words. In your groups, share your words and decide which two would be best to teach the class. You will be filling out the SAW chart for your words today, and then teaching the words to the class. Make sure you write down why you voted on this word.

*Students meet in groups and create SAW chart. Then students present the words to the class.

Assessment of learning:

  • SAW charts

  • Presentations- explanation of why they chose the word

  • Exit ticket- What new words did you learn today?

  • Follow up assessment: Write a paragraph or story using as many of the words you learned today as you can. (Include the above words in the list.)

  • Continuing use of SAW chart throughout the year to increase vocabulary.

How you can adapt it:

Math-- Preview text and have students write down math terms in context. Change Quote to "example" and Sentence to "Original Example" for you chart.

Social Studies/Art/Science, and all other content: Use chart with nonfiction text with new terms students come across.

Who dares to teach

must never cease to learn.

~John Cotton Dana

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