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Word Analysis in the Upper Elementary Classroom

August 12, 2021 No Comments

I always tell my students that a stronger vocabulary makes them better readers and better test takers! Think of all the vocabulary questions on standardized tests and college entrance exams. The most important benefit in deciphering word meaning, however, is increasing reading skills for everyday life! Using word analysis strategies in the upper elementary classroom will have your students improving their reading comprehension and confidence!

What are Word Analysis Strategies?

Word analysis strategies help students decode and determine the meaning of unknown words. This is especially important at the upper elementary level (3rd-5th grades) as students encounter increasingly complex vocabulary!

Specific instructional strategies you can focus on with your students include context clues, word parts, homophones, and more.

Context Clues

First, using context clues is a necessary word analysis strategy for deciphering word meaning. Using context clues means using the surrounding text to figure out the definition of a new word or phrase. It’s like using little hints the author leaves for the reader.

There are different types of context clues to teach your students:

  • Definition – These context clues are easy to figure out! The definition is stated directly in the sentence or passage.
  • Synonym – The author may use a word with a similar meaning to help students decipher the unfamiliar word.
  • Antonym – In an antonym context clue, the opposite of the word is stated in order to help students figure out the meaning of the unknown word.
  • Inference – This is the most common type of context clue in upper elementary books and reading passages. Students must use critical thinking to make an educated guess about the word meaning. This means using other clues in the passage and/or their background knowledge. This is especially important when coming across multiple meaning words.

I LOVE teaching context clues because it helps students solve word meanings independently!

Knowledge of Word Parts

As soon as your students start to learn the meaning of common roots, prefixes, and suffixes, they’ll start to decipher the meanings of unfamiliar and unknown words.

Knowing prefix and suffix meanings is a helpful way for upper elementary students to learn word meanings.

You can model this in the classroom with words that are tricky even for adults! When your learners know that the root word “scrib” means write, they’ll start to figure out words like inscribe, transcribe, and prescribe. Knowing the prefixes of the words (in-, trans-, and pre-) helps them build words and figure out their meanings. 

So many words are made up of word parts, which makes this word analysis strategy one of the best to teach your students! Share the prefix and suffix interactive notebook activities with your students to help them develop this skill.

Word Reference Materials

Sometimes context clues and word parts will not help students to discover a word’s meaning. Teaching students how to use word reference materials is still an important skill! 

Text features like glossaries and keyword lists are important tools in figuring out word meanings. In addition, students need to be comfortable using a print/digital dictionary and thesaurus to look up word meanings, parts of speech, and synonyms/antonyms.

Students need to know how to use word reference materials like the dictionary, thesaurus, and glossary. This sorting activity helps them differentiate among them.

Homonyms and Homophones

Homonyms are words that have one spelling but have multiple meanings while homophones are words that are spelled differently but sound alike. Quite often, these words are familiar to students, but they are easily confused. Word analysis strategies can definitely help students figure out these words as well!

I love using the word strategies flipbook to help students understand homophones like aloud and allowed or whether and weather. The more practice they get with this, the better, since we so often see commonly confused words in our students’ writing!

How Do You Teach Word Analysis Strategies?

It’s easy to tell your students what word analysis strategies are, but how do you deliver the content to make them successful readers? Here are some different ways to teach these skills and boost reading comprehension!

Incorporate Them in an ELA Focus Wall

With any strategy I teach, I like to have an anchor chart or focus wall that students and I can refer to. These vocabulary skills posters are a helpful way for students to reference these skills while reading.

Vocabulary skills posters are a great way to remind your students to use strategies to learn new vocabulary as they read!

Connect with Reading

Give your students short passages to help them determine word meaning using context clues or word parts. These word analysis task cards do just that! These task cards help your upper elementary readers connect and learn the following word analysis strategies:

  • context clues
  • prefixes, suffixes, and root words
  • synonyms and antonyms
  • homophones
  • multiple meaning words
  • word-reference materials (glossary, dictionary, and thesaurus)

Task cards are perfect for digital or paper tasks! Once you front-load with shorter passages through task cards, your students can transfer these word analysis strategies into longer nonfiction text, short stories, or even novels!

These grade 4 word analysis task cards are a perfect way to review context clues, synonyms, homophones and more as they prep for the Reading SOL test.

Assess their Skills

Want to know if your students are understanding when and how to use word analysis strategies? Use digital quizzes to pre-assess your students to see what they know and what you need to introduce or review. This also helps you differentiate instruction for different leveled readers.

I love how easy it is to assess word analysis strategies with these digital tests for students in grade 4!

Once you teach and review word analysis strategies, you can assess your students with these nine auto-grading quizzes. You’ll easily be able to analyze data and see how your students improve their skills!

If you’re feeling short on time to teach, I’ve got some tips for you to incorporate these strategies every day!

Word analysis strategies are so important to build vocabulary, language acquisition, and strong reading comprehension. Check out all my word analysis resources here! What other vocabulary strategies do you use in your classroom?

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