CSSR: Understanding Unfamiliar Words

Author: Khalid Smith
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Introduction

One of the best ways to build vocabulary is by reading. But independent reading only helps students acquire new vocabulary if when reading they are able to figure out the words they don’t know. CSSR is a strategy to help students decipher unfamiliar words.

Procedure

When introducing this strategy explain to students that when reading a text there are multiple clues to help us understand the meaning of a word that we don’t know. We can look at the context, the word’s structure, and how it sounds. The first clue is context, the words around the word we don’t know. When examining context, reread the sentence. Appositives are especially helpful. An appositive is a word or phrase immediately following the word it describes. Use clues like this to help you figure out the unfamiliar word. If the single sentence doesn’t provide enough clues. Then reread the sentence before and after. Think about the situation in which the word is being used. You may need to skim the paragraph for additional clues. Next, the first S stands for structure. Does the word look like any other words you know? Can you break the word into parts? Look for familiar prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Does any part of the word look like a word you know? The second S stands for sound. Say the word to yourself. Does it sound like any other words you know? Do any of the word parts sound familiar to you? The R in CSSR stands for resource. If all else fails, you may need to use a resource like a dictionary or a person with a larger vocabulary to help you. When using a dictionary, remember to consider the context in which the word is being used. Many words in English have multiple meanings. Find the meaning that best fits the context.

Procedure2

The first clue is context, the words around the word we don’t know. When examining context, reread the sentence. Appositives are especially helpful. An appositive is a word or phrase immediately following the word it describes and it's usually set off by commas. Use clues like this to help you figure out the unfamiliar word. If the single sentence doesn’t provide enough clues. Then reread the sentence before and after. Think about the situation in which the word is being used. You may need to skim the paragraph for additional clues.

Procedure3

Next, the first S stands for structure. Does the word look like any other words you know? Can you break the word into parts? Look for familiar prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Does any part of the word look like a word you know?

Procedure4

The second S stands for sound. Say the word to yourself. Does it sound like any other words you know? Do any of the word parts sound familiar to you?

Procedure5

The R in CSSR stands for resource. If all else fails, you may need to use a resource like a dictionary or a person with a larger vocabulary to help you. When using a dictionary, remember to consider the context in which the word is being used. Many words in English have multiple meanings. Find the meaning that best fits the context.

SatellitesProcedure6

Ask the students to read a passage and circle the words that they don't know. Advanced students often don't circle words that they've heard before but can't explain. Make a list of words that may fit this category and ask students to explain what this word mean to another student. If they can't. Have them write it down as a word that they don't understand.

Closing

CSSR works for different types of text across content areas and for all reading levels. Help students become more strategic independent readers with this strategy for unlocking the meaning of unfamiliar words.

Attachments

Grades

  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

Key Skills

  • Vocabulary
  • Context Clues
  • Morphology
  • Resources
  • Word Meaning

Standards

  • Literacy.L.5.4
  • Literacy.L.6.4
  • Literacy.L.7.4
  • Literacy.L.8.4
  • Literacy.RH.6-8.4
  • Literacy.RI.5.4
  • Literacy.RI.6.4
  • Literacy.RI.7.4
  • Literacy.RI.8.4
  • Literacy.RL.5.4
  • Literacy.RL.6.4
  • Literacy.RL.7.4
  • Literacy.RL.8.4
  • Literacy.RST.6-8.4

Assessments

What context clues can I use to help me understand the meaning of this unfamiliar word? What other words have a similar structure to this word? How can I use what I know about other words that look or sound similar to help me understand this unfamiliar word?

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