Lesson Plan: Hurricane Mitch


Time: approximately 90 minutes

Level: High-intermediate

Objective: Students will be able to use context clues to derive meaning for unknown vocabulary. (Because this is designed as an integrated skills lesson, a secondary objective is for students to continue to develop their listening skills and oral fluency on a wide variety of topics.)

Pre-reading Task: Deriving Clues from Context (15 minutes)

Tell students that we're going to be reading about natural disasters. Ask a few questions to stimulate interest in the reading task. (What do you do when you're reading and you come to a new word? How often do you use your dictionary? Why is it bad to keep referring to dictionary over the course of a short reading?) Once students have determined their own reasons for wanting to avoid heavy dictionary usage, you can guide them in this task. Give them some examples of deriving meaning from context; the sentences below use natural disasters as the topic. (You can either write these examples on the board or distribute photocopies to the students.) Make sure your students know the italicized words are nonsense words. After asking students to identify the part of speech for each word, focus on more direct ways of ascertaining meaning from context. Specifically, those ways are:

Using context clues:

It was raining really hard, so I put on my father's grolf on before going outside.

Using affixes and roots:

The reading on the murkometer was 9.2 centimeters.

Using discourse connectors:

After the mudslide, we couldn't walk through the kitchen because of all the unk on the floor.

(Although there are other ways to attack new vocabulary, introducing only three target questions provides students with a manageable number of ways to endeavor on this new and somewhat daunting process,)

Reading Task: "Deriving Meaning from Context" 30+ minutes

Note: The article students will read comes from USA Today On-line. It is a summary of the damage and destruction caused by Hurricane Mitch. Because this is a rather lengthy article, I have divided it into three parts. The first part will be done in class. The two remaining parts can be given for homework; half the students will receive Homework A, the other half Homework B.

Throughout the three parts of the article, I have maintained nearly all of the authentic text, cutting only two less important paragraphs and substituting maybe five words total. I have approached the remaining vocabulary in one of two ways: if the word seems difficult to ascertain from context, I have glossed it. Otherwise, new vocabulary is bold-faced. For the in-class portion of this exercise, definitions of the bold-faced words are provided under the text.

Directions to teacher: Pass out the reading only. With the students go through the first paragraph, asking for possibilities. Note these on the board. Then, pass out the definitions. Ask students to identify which definition fits. Ask the students to repeat the same procedure individually. Circulate and assist as needed. Finally, have students compare their work with a partner. Help each pair with any disagreements.

Assessment: (15 minutes) Here, assessment is a two-fold process. First, students are assessed on their ability to glean new meaning from context. This is done through comparing their work with a partner. You should assist to resolve any discrepancies.

Next, students are assessed on their general comprehension of the article. You can do this by giving an oral summary of the article. However, tell the students that you're tired/the article confused you, etc. and let them know that you will be making mistakes. For example, the first paragraph may be summarized as follows:Still in pairs, students can work together to accomplish this task. When I did this, each time I made a mistake, Ss had to stop me and correct me. I actually did this like a game, keeping track of each pairs' "points" on the board. Because my class was fairly small, this was fine. In a larger class, the you might arrange students in small groups, having each group take notes on the mistakes and later comparing their answers.

Follow-up discussion: (15 minutes) Working in pairs, students can discuss the questions in Exercise Two on the classroom handout.

Homework: Pass out the remainder of the newspaper article from USA Today. It's the same with glossed vocabulary to match. Here, however, no definitions are provided. Explain task to students. Assessment on the homework can be provided through an in-class A/B pair activity.

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