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Lesson Plan

Choosing, Chatting, and Collecting: Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy

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Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time Two 30-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Kendra Wagner

Mountlake Terrace, Washington

Kathleen Benson Quinn

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Expand and deepen their knowledge of content area vocabulary words

  • Identify interesting words, idioms, figurative speech, and unusual phrases in a variety of texts and other sources for vocabulary study

  • Discuss and justify their selected words or phrases by chatting with other students

  • Engage in authentic tasks to increase their understanding of new vocabulary words

  • Become instilled with a word awareness

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Session 1

1. As part of a unit on Shakespeare, ask students if they have noticed the interesting words and phrases that Shakespeare uses in his writing. Can they give a few examples? Explain that students are going to begin a new way of learning vocabulary. Instead of using the words from the teacher's guide or from their spelling books, they are going to try a new approach called "The Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy." Students will be developing their own lists of words to learn and will come together as a class to agree upon the ten most important words to learn each week.

2. As an example for modeling, share the handout that includes the script for The Tempest. You can display the instructions for Act 1, scene 1, on the overhead or PowerPoint and read it aloud, "A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard. Enter a Shipmaster and a Boatswain." Identify the word tempestuous as a word you don't know. Look up the definition and write it as "violent or stormy." Then reread the sentence aloud by replacing the word with its definition, "A violent noise of thunder and lightning heard." For boatswain, the definition is "a sailor in charge of the hull of a ship, so the sentence might be reread as, "Enter a Shipmaster and a sailor."

3. After introducing the text and asking students to make predictions about what will happen to the Shipmaster and Boatswain during the storm, gather students into groups of three to five students each depending on class size. Ask each group to find two or three words in the text that are either unknown or unfamiliar to them. These can be words that they think they have seen or heard before, but are not sure of the definitions. They can also be words they have never seen before. Idiomatic phrases and words with multiple meanings can also be identified. You may want to give your students further examples or do a few more examples together as a whole class before having students proceed in their groups. You should also circulate among the groups and coach those students who are struggling or having difficulty with the task.

4. Ask each group to write their word choices on sentence strips to share with the class. A spokesperson for the group should then come forward and place their words in the pocket chart or write them on the board or overhead. Each group should be prepared to "defend" their choices by telling why they selected the words that they did and why they want these two or three words to be part of the class list.

5. After all groups have shared, the class can agree on 8 to 10 words for class exploration. By discussing the words with students and referring back to the text, you can help the class arrive at a consensus as to which 10 words to study. For example, you might have the word tempest and tempestuous. Since those two words are related and one is derived from the other, you may decide on one or the other for the class list. Students can be involved in setting up the rules and process for the selection of words, in addition to selecting the words themselves. Modifications and revisions to the process can occur as you use the approach on a regular basis.

6. Once the class agrees upon the words they will study, either as a written or oral activity, ask students to cite the exact sentences where the words or phrases they originally selected were used and predict definitions for them in their groups. [Note: It is likely that some words will appear more than once in the text passage, so be prepared to decide whether students should examine all sentences that contain the words or only the sentences where the words are first introduced.]

7. Have students remain in their small groups to discuss the definitions of the words selected. After listening to predicted definitions, ask the group to agree upon a definition for each word. The group should then check the dictionary (e.g., Merriam-Webster Online) to find the actual definition and revise their own definition accordingly. Students' written definitions must be in their own words, not copied verbatim from the dictionary. In some cases, the dictionary definition may be listed as a single word and rewriting it another way would not be possible. Students will need to use their judgment, so long as the written definition makes sense to them. Students can then write the words and their definitions in their vocabulary notebooks or on the Vocabulary Selection Worksheet.

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Session 2

1. Review the vocabulary words by having each group share their words and definitions, and the reasons they selected the words. Then ask one member from each group to read the sentence from the online script for each word and replace the word with its definition. Have another student from a different group judge whether it makes sense or not. Discuss further if necessary, and help students make corrections where needed.

2. After making sure that the definitions of the vocabulary words make sense in the text and to enhance students' understanding and use of the words, have them work in pairs to develop a class "illustrated" dictionary. Each pair of students would have one word assigned to them. The dictionary can be created traditionally using drawing paper and art supplies or electronically using a scanner for the drawings or a software package and PowerPoint. For this example, each word entry would include:
  • The word

  • The part of speech

  • Its pronunciation (optional)

  • A definition

  • The line from the text

  • An illustration or specific example depicting the word as it relates to the text
Each entry can then be compiled to create a class printed or electronic dictionary. During the week when these words are being studied, it may also be useful to display these pages around the classroom or on a bulletin board.

3. As a closing activity, each group could take a portion of the scene or text selection where one or more of the words they have been studying are used and "act them out" for the class so that the meanings of the words can "come alive."

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  • Have student find and select additional words to learn related to the topic they are studying using online sources. In the case of Shakespeare, the following websites might be appropriate for students at this grade level:
  • Shakespeare is Elementary
    This student-created website includes several of Shakespeare's works and students' responses to them.

  • Shakespeare for Kids
    This site includes a lot of information and activities related to Shakespeare's works, including the script for The Tempest, which is used as an example in this lesson.

  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
    For a social studies connection, this website may be used to find information on Shakespeare's life and times.

  • In Search of Shakespeare
    As a source for both teachers and students, this site contains additional lesson plans, information, and excerpts for Shakespeare.
  • Continue students' curiosity about words using Word Central, a website that features a word-of-the-day section. Click on the link for "Daily Buzzword." Ask students to predict the meaning of the word before disclosing the actual meaning. There is also an archive of words to choose from, or for the students to choose from, and the entire lesson can be used with these words.

  • Once students have learned a considerable number of new words or at the end of a unit where you have a "set of words" related to a specific content area, you could try having students work together on open and closed word sorts as a review activity. Students can compare words selected for their language arts unit with words selected for their science unit to look for relationships and comparisons.

  • Some students might become interested in the origins of the words they are learning. Researching the origins of vocabulary words could be implemented as a learning center or become a choice during independent reading and writing time.

  • Have students use the Letter Generator to write letters to their classmates about the topic they are studying using at least three of their new words in the body of the letter.

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  • Each week, when the groups select words for the class collection, you can evaluate their process when they present their selections to the class. Why did they choose the words that they did? Does their Vocabulary Selection Worksheet have all of the required components?

  • The partner work for the class dictionary can be evaluated for accuracy of the definition, use of the word in the original selection, and illustration of the word's meaning as it relates to the text. The dramatic performances of the text by groups can also be evaluated for comprehension of the meanings of the words.

  • Once a week, if appropriate to your situation, you can assess students' knowledge of the 10 words through oral or written questions about their meanings. For example, for The Tempest and if the words tempest and tempestuous had been studied, you might ask, "Based on the first scene, does the title 'The Tempest' seem appropriate?"


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