Inferring Word Meaning
We use many types of clues to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words when we read. Use Brave Irene to model and practice this skill with your students.
Index cards or sticky notes
Read the first few pages aloud, stopping to model your thinking to figure out the meanings of words like dummy, muffler and helter-skeltering. For muffler, you might say, "Hmmm. I wonder what that means. I thought a muffler was something on a car, but it says that Irene put on her boots, her hat and her muffler, so a part of a car wouldn't make sense. I'm going to reread that part and try to figure out what it means. She also put on her heavy coat and her mittens. It must be something to help her keep warm in the snow. When I look at the picture on the next page, I see that she is wearing boots, a coat, a hat, mittens and a scarf around her neck. I'm inferring that muffler is another word for scarf."
After you have modeled the first few words ask the children what things they noticed you doing to infer the word meanings. Hopefully you'll get answers like rereading, using your schema and looking at the picture.
Continue you reading the story and ask the children to raise their hands if they hear a word they don't know. Then stop and try to figure out the meanings as a class. As you infer the meanings of each word ask the children what clues or strategies they used to help them.
The following day remind the children how they inferred the meanings of words they weren't familiar with. Then divide them into small groups and give each a copy of another book like Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and some index cards or sticky notes. Ask each group to read the book and find two or three words that they don't know. Have them try to infer the meaning of each word and then write the word and what they think it means on a sticky note. Let each group share one of its words and the clues that helped them infer the meaning.
Listen in on the groups as they work to informally assess their understanding. Are they able to infer the word meanings? What clues are they using?
Your students will be on the way to becoming experts at inferring word meanings and character mapping with these lessons.