The Weekly Text, January 22, 2016

Here, as I mentioned last week, are two context clues worksheets on the words empirical and empiricism. These sat on my work table for months before I finally summoned the will to use them a couple of weeks ago in two of my classes. I avoided them because I’d erroneously assumed that these words, or the concepts they represent, were simply too abstract for the struggling and often disengaged learners I serve.

Once I started leading the students through them, however,  I realized we were in one of those  serendipitous “teachable moments.” To our surprise. a series of Socratic exchanges quickly yielded–on both worksheets, which we completed, interestingly, on two non-successive days–definitions that were within two or three words of those in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (which, incidentally, is the dictionary I use to guide me when I write sentences for these kinds of context clues worksheets). We all, I think, found this gratifying.

Immediately after these classes, when I’d realized what had happened, I grabbed my notebook and wrote down the sequence of questions I asked to guide students through these two exercises. I shaped them into typescript; I’ve included them at the bottom of the two worksheets linked to above.

As always, if you use these and find them helpful, I’d be much obliged if you would tell me how or why they worked for you. If you used a different questioning strategy, or further adapted the worksheets themselves, I’d especially like to hear about that.

Until next week….

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