Using context clues, glossaries and dictionaries to understand vocabulary on the Regents Examinations
Student Flashcards with words “capital”
As a librarian and a teacher I often see students struggling with reading comprehension. Many state assessment examinations require students to be able to understand what they are reading in order to successfully pass the exams. This year our school is focusing on differentiating instruction for students through content, process and product. The research is based upon Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory, how students learn through a variety of ways. Students will remember what they learn if they experience the material through many different ways.
With a large number of English Language Learners in our school this year there is a school wide emphasis on improving students’ “academic vocabulary.” In this vein, our principal asked the librarians to collaborate with the ELL teachers to construct a lesson having students use dictionaries and glossaries. I incorporated the Global History Regents and the US History Regents into the lesson by having the students read several questions and circle the words they were unfamiliar with. Students were directed to look the words up in both glossaries and dictionaries and compare the two resources. Students had the most trouble with understanding the meaning using context clues because many of them did not understand most of the words in the sentence. The advanced students explained the meanings to the newer students. I then had the students draw pictures of the words and create flashcards to help them remember the definitions. I divided each class up into seven groups of four students each and had each group work on one regent’s question. I gave each student one 4 x 5 ½” sheet of paper and had them write the word on one side of the paper and draw a picture on the back. We reviewed the new words by showing the class the picture and had the students guess the words. At the conclusion of the lesson, students compared the glossary with the dictionary and explained how context clues provide hints to help the students understand which definition applies to the particular sentence.
This lesson appealed to the visual senses by using color and having students draw the words. The kinesthetic sense was involved by having the students touch the flashcards. Students also defined the words by using dictionaries. The kinesthetic sense was involved when they touched the dictionaries and physically looked up the words. These multiple entry points help make the material accessible to a wide range of students.