Inferring Word Meaning
Teaching your students to use context and illustrations to infer word meanings will help them be better readers and deeper thinkers.
The Mitten by Jan Brett
- Chart paper and markers
Read the book to the class. After you read it, show the class a list of words from the book that may have unfamiliar meanings, like burrowed, jostled, talons, investigate, drowsy and silhouetted. Tell them that you are going to go back and read these words in the story and try to figure out their meanings.
Find the first word in the text and read the sentences around it. Then "think aloud" to model how to figure out the meaning of the word.
Teacher: "It says that the mole found the mitten and burrowed inside. Then it says that it was cozy and warm and he decided to stay. I think burrowed must be how he went into the mitten. He probably went in like he goes through tunnels underground. I bet he thought the hole in the mitten for your hands was a tunnel and he went right in."
Point out how the words in the sentences around burrowed helped to figure out what it means.
Model your thinking as you infer the meaning of two or three more words on your list. Be sure to model a word where the illustrations help you find the meaning, like talons. Then have the students help you figure out the next word. If they seem to understand what to do, work together to find a few more meanings. If they aren't quite getting it, model another word or two and then try again to let them help you.
Have the students work with a partner to figure out the meaning of another word. Have them write it on a piece of paper and listen as you read the text around the word. Then give the students time to write or draw what they think the word means. Share their responses and discuss what helped them figure out the meaning.
Informally assess as the students share their work. Then continue to work on this skill both with the whole class and in small guided reading groups.
Repeat the lesson with a new book, giving the students more responsibility in inferring the meanings. Honey...Honey...Lion! is another fun Jan Brett book to use to teach inference.