Stop Worthy Words


If you missed my first post in my series on academic language, be sure to start there! Click below to go check it out and then come back for a lesson you can use in your classroom!

BICS and CALP: The Basics to Academic Language

Today's focus is around noticing and stopping at unknown words so that we don't have this happen:



Today, I'm sharing a lesson I did for Martin Luther King Day that also worked well for our nonfiction unit and context clues! I love it when multiple things align at once!! However, you can use this lesson for Black History Month, a biography unit, a character unit, or just because you need to teach into context clues!



I thought of the book, Martin's Big Words. And I remember in years past that when we heard some of his words in this book, they weren't big, as in, long and difficult. They were big in terms of being important. That thinking got me to think about the different types of words that students encounter that might make it hard for them to fully understand a text.


I read the book pretty much, without stopping and thinking aloud on what words might possibly mean. I wanted us to use these words over the next few days as we learned about different context clues to help us solve unknown words. I also changed the name from unknown words to "big" words or "stop worthy" words- words that should make as stop and check our understanding. The 4 types of words I came up with include:

Multiple Meaning Words: I know this words, but it doesn't make sense here.

These are words that students can typically read, but they may have different meanings and those meanings can be very different. Take the word strike for example. Most students won't know of the type of strike in Martin's Big Words. Their minds will go to baseball or bowling most likely! Same with the word right. In this book, it meant a person's rights... very different from what many of them use the word in their daily life. It's important to stop and notice these words to check our understanding.

Difficult to Read or Understand Words: I can read it, but I don't get it. -or- I can't figure out how to say this word.

These are the words that students can't read on their own, but once someone helps them, a lightbulb goes off and they are like, "Oh yea! I've heard of that before." However, they still might not be fully aware of what it means in the context.

New Language Words: I've heard this word in other places before.

These are the words that students have heard in multiple contexts, but they may be a bit more abstract to understand or explain the meaning to someone. They shouldn't be overlooked, but rather used as a teachable moment.

New Learning Words: I know this word goes with the main topic.

These words are words that students know go with the main topic of their text, but they aren't quite sure what the meaning is. These are very content specific that they probably will encounter with similar pieces of writing on the same topic, but they won't use it often in their other learning. 

We also discovered that some of these words might fall into more than one category, such as segregation. 

Throughout the week then, we used different context clues to figure out the meaning of these different types of words and began to apply them in our own reading. Here's the chart we created over the week adding different types of clues to help us solve different types of words!


I've noticed students being much more purposefully when they are jotting about their new words. I'll be showing a strategy that we use to help us jot about stop worthy words in an upcoming post.

What context clue strategies do you teach your students?




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1 comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I agree with everything your saying. We spend a lot of time in my class on vocabulary/words. I honestly believe that a great vocabulary leads to better readers and even more importantly better comprehension!

    Jamie
    Teaching Tidbits and More with Jamie

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