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Lesson Plan

Guided Comprehension: Knowing How Words Work Using Semantic Feature Analysis

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Grades 3 – 6
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time Three 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sarah Dennis-Shaw

Avon, Massachusetts


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Do folktales, myths, and fables all have nonhuman characters? Do they all express a lesson or moral for readers to take away? Students use a semantic feature analysis to find out in this lesson. A semantic feature analysis, a comprehension strategy that helps students identify characteristics associated with related words or concepts, is used to compare folktales, myths, and fables. Students begin with an introduction to the strategy and a teacher-directed lesson in how to use the strategy to analyze a folktale. In subsequent sessions, students continue to practice the strategy in small groups by analyzing myths and fables. After students have read and analyzed the texts, they reflect on how semantic feature analyses helped improve their understanding of their reading.

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McLaughlin, M., & Allen, M.B. (2002). Guided Comprehension: A teaching model for grades 38. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Guided Comprehension is a context in which students learn comprehension strategies in a variety of settings using multiple levels and types of text. It is a three-stage process focused on direct instruction, application, and reflection.

  • The Guided Comprehension Model progresses from explicit teaching to independent practice and transfer.

  • Knowing how words work refers to understanding words through strategic vocabulary development, including the use of graphophonic, syntactic, and semantic cueing systems to figure out unknown words. This strategy allows students to better understand what they read.

  • Semantic feature analysis is a classroom strategy related to knowing how words work. As students gain a working knowledge of words or concepts (e.g., literary genres), they can apply this knowledge to enhance their comprehension.

  • Current studies demonstrate that when students experience explicit instruction of comprehension strategies, it improves their comprehension of new texts and topics (Hiebert et al., 1998).

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Hiebert, E.H., Pearson, P.D., Taylor, B.M., Richardson, V., & Paris, S.G. (1998). Every child a reader. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA).

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