What's the Word?
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Near the end of the story, Wilbur praised Charlotte's gift for words. The spider often introduced Wilbur and the barn animals to new words and their meanings. Having a rich vocabulary helps strengthen students' reading comprehension and creative writing skills. In this activity, students exercise their vocabulary and word analysis skills by placing particular words on Charlotte's web until they discover the one perfect word that ends the game.
1. Identify words by parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs
2. Use word analysis skills to identify plural and singular nouns, synonyms, prefixes, and word meanings
3. Group or isolate specific words according to their meanings
1. Computer: activities can be modified from one computer to a whole computer lab
2. Flashlight Readers: Charlotte's Web: Pick the Perfect Word game
3. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
4. Length of bulletin board paper and markers
5. Chalkboard and chalk
6. Print or online dictionary (such as dictionary.com)
7. Optional: Printout of Charlotte's Web Vocabulary Boosters
8. Optional: LCD or overhead projector to display activities
Set Up and Prepare
1. Bookmark Flashlight Readers: Charlotte's Web on the computers students will use.
2. Bookmark online dictionary, if using one for this activity.
3. NOTE: If students have limited access to computers, print activity screens and make transparencies to post on an overhead projector.
Step 1: Draw a large four-column chart on bulletin board paper. Add the headings "Noun," "Verb," "Adjective," and "Adverb." Review each of the four parts of speech with students. Then write terrific, radiant, and humble on the chalkboard. Read each word with students, and have them identify the part of speech it represents (an adjective). Ask them to explain why the word is an adjective. Invite a volunteer to write the word in the corresponding column on the chart. Page through the book to find words that fit under each of the categories. You might also use words from Charlotte's Web Vocabulary Boosters. Be sure to include singular and plural nouns as well as words with prefixes. Call out each word, and read it in a sentence. After students determine what part of speech the word belongs to, have a volunteer add it to the chart.
Step 2: Read one word at a time from the "Noun" column on the completed chart. Ask students to tell whether the noun is singular or plural. Draw a circle around each plural noun.
Step 3: Have students review the chart to find words that contain a prefix. If a student locates one, invite him or her to identify the word, its part of speech, and the prefix. Invite the student to underline the prefix in the word. After all the words with prefixes are found, encourage students to brainstorm other words containing prefixes. Write their responses on the chalkboard.
Step 4: Review the definition of a synonym. Ask students to locate any word on the chart that might be the synonym of another word on the chart. If one or more synonyms are found, draw a box around each word. Then invite students to brainstorm other synonyms.
Step 5: Gather students around a computer, or use an LCD or other projection device to project the Pick the Perfect Word screen for the whole class to see. Then introduce the game, review its object, and read the instructions together. Explain that students will be challenged to use what they know about parts of speech, as well as their word analysis skills, to select words to place on Charlotte's web. Point out that they will click on a character or the "Or Test Your Skills" sign to choose a game to play. During play, they will read the directions for each screen and respond by dragging words onto or off of the web.
Step 6: Invite students to work individually or in pairs to play the game. If working in pairs, encourage the partners to decide together which words to move, and have them take turns operating the mouse. If an incorrect response is made, the word will flash in red after "Done" is clicked and students will be given the opportunity to read the definition of the word before continuing. They can then make the necessary correction and click "Done" again. When all the correct choices are made in the character versions of the game, the screen changes to the next round of play (there are four or five rounds for each game). After finding the one perfect word on the last round, students can choose to play a new game. When completing a game launched from the sign, students can choose to play the same kind of game again or play a new game (this choice will take them to the main screen for Pick the Perfect Word).
Step 7: To play a different version of the game, students can click on a different character or make a selection from the sign. Once students have completed a character version of Pick the Perfect Word, Charlotte will reward them by spinning the one perfect word in her web. They can also view and print a copy of the Word Definitions used in that particular game.
Step 8: After playing the game, invite students to construct their own version of the game using word cards and a large, hand-drawn spider web. They might select words from the story, Word Definitions (from the game), or Vocabulary Boosters to write on individual index cards. Have students write the directions for each round of their game on one side of a large index card and the answers on the back. When ready, encourage students to exchange and play each other's games to find the perfect word. You might also have the entire class play the games, presenting one game at a time during different times of the day (or week) to provide practice or a quick review in vocabulary and word analysis skills.
Supporting All Learners
Language Arts Standards (4th ed.)
- Uses word reference materials (e.g., glossary, dictionary, thesaurus) to determine the meaning, pronunciation, and derivations of unknown words
- Understands level-appropriate reading vocabulary (e.g., synonyms, antonyms, homophones, multi-meaning words)
- Ask students to print the Word Definitions after completing each character version of the game. Have them assemble their pages into a personal dictionary that they can refer to when working on creative writing activities.
- Invite students to list unfamiliar words from the story. Have them alphabetize and use the words to create additional pages for their personal dictionaries. For each entry, have them include a pronunciation key, each major part of speech it represents, and each common definition of the word. Students can refer to a printed or online dictionary to find this information.
- Invite students to make word cards using words from the story. Challenge them to sort and group the words according to their parts of speech, meanings, or other attributes. Have them also use the cards as flash cards to practice their word recognition skills.
- Informally assess students' understanding of word meanings, parts of speech, and other word analysis skills by observing students as they play the game. Conduct a follow-up review with students who have difficulty sorting the words in the web. Afterward, encourage these students to play the game again.
- After playing the game, give students a random assortment of word cards labeled with words from the game. Have them read each word, give its meaning, and use the word in a sentence. Ask them to tell what part of speech the word belongs to.
- Present students with sets of 3-4 word choices. Have them identify a word from each set according to a particular attribute, such as a plural noun, a word containing a prefix, or a word that is a synonym for a given word.
- Give students a list of words containing nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Have them create a chart to organize the words by parts of speech.