Beacon Lesson Plan Library

A Growing Vocabulary

Kathy Boyte


Watch your intermediate students' vocabulary and critical thinking skills grow with this reading activity that also provides many opportunities for extensions.


The student develops vocabulary by reading independently.


-[Family Tree] by Katherine Ayers, copies for teacher and each student
-Downloaded copies of the Double Entry Journal and Word Map Activity (Associated File)
-Chart paper with a copy of DEJ blown up on it (make a copy of the DEJ on transparency film and use your overhead to trace a DEJ on your chart paper)
-Heart cut-outs (use Ellison cutter if available), 1 per student
-Dictionaries – adequate amount for your class size
-18" X 24" light-colored construction paper
-Crayons or markers


1. Arrange seating so that students are in small reading groups.

2. Gather needed materials.

3. Download and copy (for each student) copies of DEJs with Criteria Checklist and Word Map Activity with Criteria Example (from Associated File).

4. Purchase a potted tree and place it in a location that will capture your students’ interest as they enter the classroom.

5. Have students make a reading folder by folding 12" X 18" construction paper in half. Students label the folder with the title and the author of the book on top of the folder, student’s name on the bottom, and an illustration of their liking.

6. Students staple the DEJ and Word Map Activity into their Reading Folders.


Day 1

1. Encourage students to question the reason for the live prop to be in the room. This will get their brains engaged and eager for more information.

2. Ask students if they can identify the living prop (tree). Then ask students if they know of any type of trees other than a living tree? (Students will usually come up with family tree, coat tree, hat tree, etc.)

3. Agree with students that indeed there are more than just living trees and that a Family Tree is a way to trace one’s family genealogy. (Keep this in mind for a new vocabulary word). Ask students if anyone’s family has ever completed a family tree and encourage group discussion.

4. Ask students to write their name on one side of the provided heart cut out and one detail that they know about their family’s history or background. Each student should place their heart on the tree with an ornament hook. The tree will remain in the classroom throughout the reading of the book.

5. Wrap up discussion, distribute, and introduce book. Note the book's jacket, title, and author. Ask students if they have previously read any other books by the author?

6. Establish the primary purpose for reading to the class (distributing the folders, DEJ, and Word Map Activity): That students will read the novel, gaining new vocabulary words daily, recording new words (one from independent reading, one from sharing with a peer) on their DEJ and finally completing a Word Map from four words from their DEJ.

7. Go over each of the forms with the entire class. Spend time on the specific criteria set forth for the DEJ and the Word Map Activity.

8. Read prologue of [Family Tree]. The word [genealogy] appears. Model the discovery and recording of a new vocabulary word on the chart paper DEJ with the word [genealogy]. Ask students to record the genealogy on their DEJ. On chart paper, record what you think the word means when it is read in context.

9. Students record what they predict the word to mean on DEJ.

10. Students share predicted meanings. Accept reasonable answers.

11. Select a student to look up the word’s true definition in the dictionary. Record the word’s definition on the chart DEJ.

12. Tell students that you will continue reading from book, and they should read along with you, listening for and recording any unfamiliar words.

13. When you’ve read the entire prologue, ask students to share any unfamiliar words they may have heard during the reading. Record the words on the DEJ.

14. Ask for volunteers to share inferences of what they think the word means, and ask students to volunteer to look up the word in the dictionary. As you model recording, students record in his or her individual DEJ.

15. As a whole class, review the DEJ criteria with the chart. Assess the work on the DEJ as Outstanding, Acceptable, or Needs Revisions. This will allow the students a model of expected quality of work.

16. Assign thirty minutes of independent reading time to students. Make it clear to students that they are responsible for recording one unfamiliar word in their DEJ and to complete the required columns.

17. Teacher should model reading in classroom and roam the room, providing feedback to students.

18. At the end of thirty minutes, students look up the true definition of their new word in dictionaries. In their small reading groups, students share new vocabulary words. Each student should also select a word to record from someone else in their group. At the end of each reading session, each student will have two words in their DEJ.

19. Have a short, five-minute whole class sharing time. Select one student to record his or her word on the chart at the front of the class.

20. Make sure to give a formative assessment based on the criteria list for the DEJ. If time is of concern, set your objective to assess at least one small reading group per day. That way the entire class will have received feedback from you at least once a week.

Day 2

1. When the book has been read entirely, each student will have at least twenty new vocabulary words in their DEJ. From those twenty words, students select four words and complete the Word Map Activity. (See Associated File.) Strongly stress the importance of following the guide set forth on the Word Map Activity.

2. Once all DEJ and Word Maps have been completed, each student will have weekly formative assessments on which to use as a future reference. Collect and display Word Maps for other classes to see.


Each student produces a Double Entry Journal (see Associated File) with ten new vocabulary words with definitions derived from independently reading a fiction novel on his or her appropriate reading level and ten new vocabulary words from student sharing opportunities. From the entries in DEJ, students select four vocabulary words to create Words Maps. (See Associated File.)

Assess students' Daily Entry Journals daily throughout independent reading time by students' ability to:
1. List at least one new vocabulary word each day.
2. Infer a logical meaning by using context clues or other reading strategies.
3. Compare the word’s inferred meaning to the word’s true definition.

Assess students’ vocabulary development by their ability to correctly produce a completed word map for four vocabulary words derived from DEJs. The word map must include:
1. New vocabulary word.
2. An antonym for the vocabulary word.
3. A synonym for the vocabulary word.
4. A sentence with the vocabulary word (underlined) and used correctly.


1. During the reading of this novel, students create a Family Tree of their own.
2. This lesson provides ample opportunities for Interpersonal activities. When students have completed independent reading, have them turn to one another and share their ideas of what they have read.
3. Develop an Author Study by supplying other books by this author.
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