Common Core Reading Standard #4—Vocabulary in Context

This week is my last one before returning to the classroom on Monday. I have to be honest, thinking about the first day of school still makes me really queasy even after eleven years. Of course, I do plan to continue this series of posts about the Common Core through the fall. This week we begin with "Craft and Structure." 4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper). So this standard is all about vocabulary and author word choice, teaching students how to understand meanings in context and how to analyze diction. Usually for this blog I focus only on free resources for integrating technology, but Academic Merit's Literary Companion is worth mentioning even though it is a subscription service. We've been using it at our school for three years now, and I find it indispensable for, among other things, teaching vocabulary in context. As subscribers to LC, teachers have access to a sizable library of preselected passages of text from many classic works like Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Romeo and Juliet. Each selection from this library comes with passages and lessons that focus on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing. Even better, all of the lessons are directly aligned with the Common Core Standards. As a "veteran" user I can tell you Literary Companion is well worth the cost and their customer service is excellent. One of my other favorites for teaching vocab/reading skills is TV411 (this one is free to use). Specific to standard #4, the reading section of TV411 offers authentic interactive lessons with vocabulary words appropriate for 9th and 10th grade students in the "Using Context Clues" section. Games You might also try using online games for teaching vocabulary like those at the "Vocabulary Can Be Fun" site where they have all kinds organized by developmental levels, including analogy games and context games appropriate for teaching standard #4. Whatever technology you use in the classroom to teach definitions, tone, and diction, stay focused on vocabulary in context. In my experience, teaching vocabulary directly from their text and teaching students how to analyze the effects of that author's word choices at the same time, increases long-term retention and opens up many connections to other important concepts like dialogue, dialect, and theme. Good luck to all of you who are starting school next week!