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Lesson Plan

Solving Word Meanings: Engaging Strategies for Vocabulary Development

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Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 45-minute sessions plus extensions
Lesson Author

Scott Greenwood, Ed.D.

Scott Greenwood, Ed.D.

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Kevin Flanigan

West Chester, Pennsylvania


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Students learn the meanings of new words by engaging in a wide array of reading. However, the chances of learning a new word from a single exposure in a naturally occurring context are slim. This lesson provides sixth, seventh- and eighth-grade students with the opportunity to practice using context clues that are purposefully manipulated. Context clues are then combined with semantic gradients, requiring students to both select and generate related words along continuums. Students work in groups and are required to verbalize their thinking. Additionally, they apply their learning by creating context clues and semantic gradients of their own.

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Greenwood, S.C., & Flanigan, K. (2007). Overlapping vocabulary and comprehension: Context clues complement semantic gradients. The Reading Teacher, 61, 249254.

  • Learning words via naturally occurring context is important but not terribly efficient (Stahl & Nagy, 2006).

  • Students need instruction and practice using context clues including repeated, meaningful encounters with new words.

  • Words are learned best when associations bridge from the known to the new (Bromley, 2007).

  • Semantic gradients (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2006) provide opportunities for students to discern shades of meaning by building on what they already know.

  • In this article, context clues and semantic gradients are combined to help students reconnect individual word meanings and bridge the divide between vocabulary and comprehension.


Blachowicz, C.Z., & Fisher, P.J. (2006). Teaching vocabulary in all classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.


Bromley, K. (2007). Nine things every teacher should know about words and vocabulary instruction. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 50, 528537.


Stahl, S.A., & Nagy, W.E. (2006). Teaching word meanings. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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