Reading to Learn

Vocabulary Construction


     Understanding vocabulary is an essential step in comprehending reading. If one does not know what the words they are reading mean, then they cannot really comprehend the meaning of the text. The best way to learn groups of words is to cluster them into semantic groups. Semantic groups are words that have a common base (i.e. things you can do with your feet, things you can do inside, ways to say hello/goodbye, etc.), which helps to make learning new vocabulary easier.  These groups help children to be able to actively compare and contrast the similar words to see the different relationships. In order for the students to gain ownership of the rules, they must first find the words in context, relate the words to one another, and then be able to generate new sentences using the words. The purpose of this lesson is to have students learn new vocabulary through these semantic groups and gain word ownership, since related words are easier to learn and trigger each other’s definitions.



  • Dictionary for every student
  • Overhead
  • Worksheet with vocabulary sentences
  • Worksheet with vocabulary word pairs
  • Chart for “Word Wizard” Points
  • Expository Text: “Asian Elephant”



  1. Say, “Today we are going to learn some new vocabulary words. Why do you think it is important for us to learn new vocabulary words? That’s right! We learn new vocabulary words so we can understand what we are reading. Remember that to be good readers, we have to know what the words we are reading mean so that we can get the full information from what we are reading. One way for us to learn new vocabulary is through learning words in groups; this helps us learn them quicker because we can compare the words. Although we do our best to learn words, sometimes when we are reading we get to a word that we do not know. When this happens, we can use strategies to figure out what the word might mean. What is one thing you think we can do to figure out a word? Yes! One way is to use a dictionary. We can also read the rest of the sentence and crosscheck to try and figure out what the mystery word means. For example, if I was reading the sentence, “The horse hurdled over the fence” and didn’t know what hurdled meant, I go back and look at the entire sentence. Hmm, the horse _____over the fence, well I know horses can jump over things so maybe hurdled means to jump! We can then guess that hurdled means to jump. Today we are going to focus on learning these vocabulary words that deal with personality traits and moods: (write them on the board as you say them) disappointed, fortunate, gloomy, peaceful, irritated, passionate, jealous, nervous, attentive, gentle.”


2.     Say, “Today, we are going to learn how to look for our vocabulary words using a dictionary. Who knows what a dictionary is? A dictionary is a book that contains a large amount of words and their meanings. So, remind me, when is a time that a dictionary might be useful? Exactly! When we come to a word that we are unfamiliar with and cannot figure out the meaning. Now, take out your dictionary from your desk and look through it for a moment. (Give the students time to look at their dictionary and familiarize themselves with it). Can anyone tell me what you notice about the dictionary? Right! It is in ABC order. This means that the entire list of A words come before B, all of the B words come before C and so forth.  Our first word is attentive (point to it on the board). (Place your dictionary underneath the overhead so the students can see what you are doing). We were very attentive when our teacher gave us instructions for the test. To begin, we look at the beginning letter of the word, which in cautious is a. Then, find where the a words begin in the dictionary. Once you find where the a words begin, look at attentive again. What is the next letter? Right! The next letter is t. So we go to our t words and look at the words that start with at. What is the next letter? Good, it is another t, so we look for att in the dictionary. Now what is the next letter? Right! It is e, so we look for atte. We repeat this process for each letter in the word until we complete the word and are able to find it in the dictionary. (Continue the process until the word is found). What does attentive mean? Fantastic! It means to pay close attention to something. Now we have the definition for attentive. The next word is disappointed. (Use the dictionary to find and define the rest of the vocabulary words).


3.     The teacher will then provide the students with some examples and non-examples for each vocabulary word. “The word attentive means to pay close attention to something. A person who dozes off during class would not likely be attentive. A person who writes down everything that the teacher says is likely to be attentive.”


4.     The teacher will then model how to use the vocabulary word in a sentence before asking the students to generate a sentence. Say, “Let me show you how I might use attentive in a sentence. The child was attentive when the speaker gave a presentation. Now you try and finish this sentence: The attentive student…” (The teacher will continue to do the examples, non-examples, and finish the sentence for disappointed, fortunate, gloomy, peaceful, irritated, passionate, jealous, nervous).

Our next word is disappointed. Disappointed means to be sad or displeased because someone or something did not live up to the expectations you had for it. People are disappointed when their food in a restaurant is not as delicious as they thought it would be. If you are in a good mood, you will not be disappointed.

The next word is fortunate. Fortunate means to be favored or lucky. Someone is fortunate when they receive something they were not expecting. When you feel fortunate, you are not unhappy.

Gloomy is our next word. Gloomy means to feel sad and distressed. When the weather is raining and cold, it feels gloomy outside. If the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day, it does not feel gloomy.

The next word is peaceful. Peaceful means to be free from disturbance. The quiet woods feel like a peaceful place. The busyness of New York City does not feel like a peaceful place.

Irritated means to be annoyed or impatient. Fans are usually irritated when their favorite team is not winning. They are not irritated if their team is in the lead.

The next word is passionate. Passionate means to show strong feeling for something. Students who are passionate about their work get it done right and on time. When students turn in work late and unfinished, they are not passionate about school.

Jealous is our next word. Jealous means to show envy towards someone.  I was very jealous of my best friend when he was praised by the teacher and I was not. If I had not cared about what my teacher thought, I would have not been jealous.

Next we have the word nervous. Nervous means to be anxious about something. The good student was nervous before taking the test because he wanted a good grade. If he did not want a good grade, he would not be nervous.

Gentle is our last word. To be gentle is to have a mild temperament, to be kind or tender. The mother was very gentle with her newborn baby. If she dropped her newborn baby, this would be gentle.


5.     The teacher will continue to talk about the vocabulary words. Have the students comment about each vocabulary word: “Would a class clown be attentive? Why or why not? Who might be someone who is attentive?” Then continue talking about the rest of the vocabulary words.

If my steak tasted great would I be disappointed?

I am happy because good things keep happening to me today. Would I be fortunate or disappointed?

The sun is hidden from the clouds and it has been raining for a long time. Should I feel gloomy?

Would my quiet house or the busy streets outside feel more peaceful?

When our parents told us we were going to Disney world, we were jumping and screaming we were so happy! Could you say we were enthusiastic or glum?

My little brother has just ran in my room and thrown my favorite blanket on the floor. Would I be irritated or jealous?

When someone else got the part in the school play that I wanted, would I be jealous or fortunate?

I am about to get up in front of the whole class and give a presentation that I forgot to prepare for. Should I feel nervous?

I shook up the coke bottle before giving it to my friend. Was I being gentle?


6.     For an assessment, the teacher will have the students complete a sentence using the vocabulary words. (See below).


7.     After completing the sentence sheet, the students will read an expository text. The teacher will pass out an article that includes at least one vocabulary word from today’s lesson. Say: “The article that is being passed around is called ‘Asian Elephant’. We are going to read this story to learn more about some of the words that we just discussed.

Does anyone know what an elephant is? Or anything about elephants? Judging from the title, we cannot really learn much. Let’s read to find out more! (The students will then read silently to themselves.)


8.     We will then discuss the text that the students have just read.

a.     Where do the studied elephants live?

b.    How are the elephants described physically?

c.     Describe an elephant’s personality.

d.    What vocabulary word did we see while reading?

e.     How was this word used in the story?

f.     What is the meaning of the word that was used?


9.     The students will have an opportunity to participate in an activity called, “Word Wizard.” The students will look for the vocabulary words. Each time the student sees the word in print they will earn one point. If the student hears it used in speech, they earn two points. If the student uses the word themselves (and it makes sense in context) they will earn three points. The points the students earn will be used to earn ranks. Each student will be ranked on a chart in the class. The lowest level is apprentice. As students earn more points they will move up to word journeyman and eventually to word wizard.



Vocabulary Sentence Worksheet


Name _________________________________

Date __________________________________


Directions: Fill in the blanks with the vocabulary word list.

Words: disappointed, fortunate, gloomy, peaceful, irritated, passionate, jealous, nervous, attentive, gentle


  1. My family was _________ when we found out that my grandmother could not come visit for the holidays.
  2. I felt very _________ when the weather outside was nasty.
  3. It was very obvious that the musician was __________ about her instrument, we could all tell that she loved it very much
  4. I was very ___________ of my brother when my mom let him eat the last cookie instead of me.
  5. When I made an A on my test, found $20 on the ground, and got ice cream after school I felt ___________.
  6. The girl that sits on the front row during class and takes notes all day is an ___________ student.
  7. I was ___________ with the other students in my class when they would not stop talking while our teaching was trying to teach.
  8. Before trying out for the cheerleading squad, I felt very ___________.


Answers: 1. Disappointed, 2. Gloomy, 3. Passionate, 4. Jealous, 5. Fortunate, 6. Attentive, 7. Irritated, 8. Nervous


Name __________________________________

Date ____________________________________


  • Can someone be passionate and gloomy?
  • Can someone be jealous and fortunate?
  • Can someone be attentive and disappointed?
  • Can someone be nervous and irritated?
  • Can someone be fortunate and gloomy?
  • Can someone be disappointed and fortunate?
  • Can someone be irritated and gentle?




Avant, Shelby. Building Vocabulary.!page5/c2438

Expository Text: