Standard Lesson

Learning to Learn with Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 50-minute sessions
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After a read-aloud of the picture book Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster, students combine vocabulary exploration with word play by planning their own vocabulary parade, modeled on the activities in the text. Students brainstorm a list of vocabulary terms from a recent unit of study and then design concrete ways to illustrate the terms. The presentation of terms can be in the form of a parade (an appropriate substitute for Halloween activities), or a video, which might play during parent conferences or open house.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

In Teaching Vocabulary to Improve Reading Comprehension, William Nagy points out the limitations of teaching through definition- or context-based approaches alone. In building more effective alternatives, he argues that even one "example can often convey a meaning more vividly than a definition and help students relate what may be a very abstract and general definition to their own experience" (9).

Nagy goes on to push teachers to "go far beyond providing definitions and contexts" (9). One of the methods he suggests is to provide students with opportunities for meaningful use of new words. Young students who are both learning new words and learning how to learn vocabulary need methods that provide vivid engagement and a highly-experiential learning environment to construct meaning that will be useful and relevant to them.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier (Voyager Books, 2007)

  • Note cards

  • Large sheet of paper or white board

  • Computer with Internet access

  • Family letter

  • General resources for costume making

  • Video camera (optional)

  • TV/VCR (optional)



  • Read Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster (Voyager Books, 2007) by Debra Frasier prior to sharing it with the class.

  • Choose a unit of study for students’ vocabulary study that is rich in challenging, complex vocabulary. Based on that unit, prepare a list of vocabulary words students are likely to suggest. The list can serve as a reference during the brainstorming activity in Session One.

  • Determine best method of sharing the project, depending upon your school, time of year, and expectations. Students’ vocabulary parade might be shared with other classes at the same grade level, with the entire school, with family members, or with local community members.

  • Gather resources for costume planning and making. Costume design can be an elaborate affair or something put together within a class period. This activity provides a great opportunity to collaborate with an art teacher or media specialist. If desired, consult the book Making Make Believe: Fun Props, Costumes, and Creative Play Ideas by Mary Ann Kohl for ideas.

  • Create a custom letter that explains the project to famillies, modeled on the Family Letter included on the back pages of Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster. Be sure that the message lists any Websites the students will need to access as part of the project. Make copies of the letter for students to take home to their families.

  • Make copies of Vocabulary Disaster Presentation Rubric and the New Learning Reflection sheet.

  • Test the Stapleless Book on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • relate to the text by generalizing the concepts to their own setting and learning needs.

  • demonstrate an understanding of a concept or term by illustrating it through pictures, words, and actions in the presentation.

  • reflect on a new learning strategy and consider how they might apply it in future learning settings.

Session One

  1. At the end of a unit rich with challenging vocabulary, read Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster aloud to the whole class.

  2. After reading the book, allow time for students to share their reactions to the book.

  3. Explain that the class will have a vocabulary parade, just like the characters in Miss Alaineus.

  4. Working as a class, ask students to brainstorm a list of words, terms, and/or concepts based on a recent unit of study that might appear in the class’s vocabulary parade.

  5. Record the words students share on the board or on chart paper. Save this list for use during later sessions.

  6. Make suggestions from your own list if the class has trouble getting started or miss important terms that should be included.

  7. If students need additional time to gather words for their parade, identify a time or place where students can submit additional ideas. Be sure to maintain students’ enthusiasm for the project even though you must cut off discussion for now.

Session Two

  1. Present the format of the vocabulary parade and its intended audience to the class, based on the method you have chosen. Students might participate in a parade, taped video, or class skits.

  2. Ask students to take a minute on their own to review the list and identify any words that do not fit the project guidelines as well as any words that need to be added to the list.

  3. If a test is required at the end of the unit of study, this list of vocabulary terms can be developed as a study guide or as a review session. If this is the case, allow an extra session to ensure students have enough time to review all the terms as well as make their plans for the vocabulary parade.

  4. Use the Stapleless Book to type up the terms and present them as miniature study guides or program for the performance.

  5. Have students select a term from the list and write the following information on a note card:

    • Student’s Name

    • Term they wish to represent (1st choice)

    • Why they have selected that term

    • Term they wish to represent (2nd choice)

    • Why they have selected that term
  6. Collect the note cards, and review them for overlaps and gaps. Allow for accommodations as appropriate:

    • Pair up words that can be demonstrated together and assign them to students who may have trouble completing the assignment independently. If some students receive support services, check with relevant support staff before assigning a term which might cause unusual difficulties.
  7. Assign terms to students during recess or lunch period for the best results. Otherwise, be sure to assign words prior to the third class session so you can manage any negotiation of terms and allow students to begin thinking about the terms they will work on.

  8. Once terms have been assigned, pass out your customized copies of the Family Letter that you have composed to explain the project to families. Ask students to take the letter home to their families.

Session Three

  1. Tell the class that this session is devoted to planning the costumes and reviewing the timeline for the vocabulary project.

  2. Explain the resources that are available to students in the classroom (e.g., books, Websites, materials from the art teacher or media specialist).

  3. Pass out the Vocabulary Disaster Presentation Rubric and review the expectations for the project with the class.

  4. Ask students to begin planning their costumes in pairs or small groups. Encourage students to collaborate and problem solve together.

  5. As students work, rotate through the room and conference with students to determine the feasibility of their ideas and their ability to provide materials. Provide feedback, encouragement, and support, as appropriate.

  6. At the end of the session, remind students of the day and time for the presentation of their costumes.

  7. Remind students of the expectations on the Vocabulary Disaster Presentation Rubric.

  8. Ask students to prepare a note card clearly listing their term and its definition in their own words before the presentation takes place—either as a summary after this session or for homework. You or an adult volunteer will use this notecard to introduce each student.

Session Four

  1. On the day of the presentation, use the Vocabulary Disaster Presentation Rubric to provide feedback for each student.

  2. After the presentations, pass out the New Learning Reflection sheet and ask students to assess their work and learning during this activity.

  3. Collect students’ reflections and use their responses to shape your final comments on the Vocabulary Disaster Presentation Rubric.


Student Assessment / Reflections

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