I love teaching word analysis skills because they help kids become stronger readers. Learning strategies to figure out the meaning of new words helps students become more confident and independent in their reading. And as they increase their vocabularies, their reading comprehension improves.
But with increasingly harder vocabulary in the upper elementary grades, word analysis can be really challenging for students. So how can we make time for students to practice and improve their word-solving skills all year long?
What Are Word Analysis Skills?
When students use word analysis skills, they are independently using strategies and resources to figure out what unfamiliar words and phrases mean.
Here are specific word analysis skills you might teach to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders:
- use context clues
- differentiate among multiple meanings of words
- use knowledge of roots, prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, antonyms, and homophones
- use word reference materials (dictionary, glossary, thesaurus)
- identify figurative language
How Do We Make Word Analysis Part of the Daily Routine?
Here are some ways that I’ve made word analysis instruction a part of the daily routine so students keep using these skills all year long:
Get Kids Reading
The single best thing kids can do is read different types of text (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, literary nonfiction, functional text, etc.) at different levels. Independent reading, guided reading groups, and literature circles are all opportunities to use vocabulary skills.
As they’re reading, students can use sticky notes and graphic organizers to show the word analysis strategies they used to figure out different words.
A daily read-aloud is an easy place to incorporate word analysis practice. As you read a chapter book or mentor text, you can model how you stop at an unfamiliar word and infer its meaning using different clues and strategies. After a few examples, you can have students try this out.
Use Anchor Charts and Word Walls
I LOVE using word analysis anchor charts. I use them when I first teach all of the different strategies and keep them up all year long so students can refer back to them. Mini anchor charts in reading notebooks also work if you’re short on wall space!
You can also create a word wall for synonym and antonym pairs, homophone pairs, and common affixes. I like using interactive word walls that students can add to when they find examples in their reading. They can jot them on a sticky note and add them to the wall.
Use Warmup Questions
Starting each day with a word analysis question is a quick and easy spiral review method. I love showing a daily warmup question on the interactive whiteboard and having students answer on their own whiteboards. Stand-alone analysis questions (questions that don’t require reading a passage) are also great to use as time fillers when you have a few extra minutes.
Need help coming up with questions? Grab a free word analysis question stems list below!
Try a Vocabulary Word of the Day
A vocabulary word of the day is another great activity. You can ask students to segment a word into its root word and affixes, come up with a synonym or antonym for a word, etc. It can go up on your whiteboard, be included in a morning message, or even be an “entrance ticket” to enter the classroom. You can make it more fun by challenging students to use the word in their normal conversations.
This is also a good way to review previously taught vocabulary words. Multiple exposures to words in different scenarios will help expand kids’ vocabularies and get them reviewing all those word-solving skills!
Use Literacy Station Activities
If you have word work stations, morning work bins, early finisher options, or centers, you can easily add some quick individual or partner activities that get kids using their word analysis strategies. Here are a few ideas to try:
- file folder games
- crosswords and word searches
- task cards
- sorting activities
- vocabulary word scavenger hunts
- poem of the day/week
- holiday/seasonal themed activities
- board games like Scrabble
If you have laptops or iPads handy, you can also have students practice using online word reference tools. But keep in mind that they’re set up differently than print resources. My students always needed needed a lot of practice with both.
Bring Other Content Areas into Language Arts
Students are certainly going to come across new words in areas like science, social studies, and math. Using short, leveled content-focused passages in reading groups is a helpful way to introduce vocabulary they’ll need to learn. The key is making sure they have enough background knowledge to grasp the majority of the content. We don’t want every word to be new!
I also like to have students create a class glossary or dictionary of terms they learn throughout a unit.
The biggest way to incorporate word analysis skills in your classroom all year long is to have kids read, read, read and to read, read, read to them! The more they come across new words and phrases, the more opportunities they have to figure out what they mean. Doing a spiral review of word solving skills like using context clues, word parts, and word reference sources will keep kids actively working to solve those unknown word meanings all year long.