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Unit 4, Lesson 3: Making Vocabulary Connections!

This lesson can overlap as students are reading the book, participating in all lessons and beginning to play parts, if you are sure to limit the vocabulary to that which they have already encountered in the book or unit.  The learning activity helps students to understand deeper meanings of words as they discover “links”.  This can be repeated as a warm-up, or an activity at different times during the school day once students understand the process.


Standards Addressed

  • California History Social Science Content Standards

    4.3 - Students explain the economic, social, and political life in California from the establishment of the Bear Flag Republic through the Mexican-American War, the Gold Rush, and the granting of statehood. Compare how and why people traveled to California and the routes they traveled (e.g., James Beckwourth, John Bidwell, John C. Fremont, Pio Pico).

    1. Analyze the effects of the Gold Rush on settlements, daily life, politics, and the physical environment (e.g., using biographies of John Sutter, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Louisa Clapp).
    2. Study the lives of women who helped build early California (e.g., Biddy Mason).
  • Common Core State Standards Reading

    Craft and Structure

    1. Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area. (See grade 4 Language standards 4–6 for additional expectations.)
  • CA HSS Analysis Skills (K–5)
    Historical Interpretation
  • California English Language Development Standards

    Part 1:  Interacting in Meaningful Ways – Collaborative

    P1.4.1 Exchanging information and ideas with others through oral collaborative discussions on a range of social and academic topics

    1. Supporting opinions – Support opinions by expressing appropriate/accurate reasons using textual evidence (e.g., referring to text) or relevant background knowledge about content, with substantial support.
    2. Selecting language resources – Use a select number of general academic and domain-specific words to create precision while speaking and writing.

Essential Questions

  • How has the growth of the area affected the economic, social and political life of the citizenry?


  • Students will understand the vocabulary helpful in describing the economic, social, and political life during the development of California.


This objective will be assessed through teacher observation and feedback as students practice.

Quality Criteria Absolutely! Almost! Not Yet
Active and productive engagement in activity through oral collaboration      
Discussion clearly demonstrate links, indicating understanding of vocabulary and concepts      
Supports opinion with accurate reasons      

Materials and Resources Needed

Learning Activities

(Approximately 40-50 minutes, and/or shorter intervals at different times in the unit or during reading of the book)


Slide l8:  Both in reading the book and in our activities, there are many vocabulary words that we had never heard before!  Some are words that were related to mining and the Gold Rush “times”, and others are used in our everyday lives.  Can anyone think of a word right now that was completely “strange” to you when you first heard of it?  (Give think time, students look through notes from unit).

  • How about the words “pay dirt”?  What did this word mean during the Gold Rush?
  • Finding gold easily through mining, and making money
  • “Pay dirt” is now used in a casual way ~ “Fixing up my bike and selling it was like “pay dirt”.  (I made money easily)


  1. I will give each of you a word page.  You will look through your notes, and think about what this word means.  Keep thinking….how does this word relate to the Gold Rush, i.e.:  the economy, population, or the environment? Write some notes relating to this vocabulary word in your notebook. Keep those thoughts!
  2. Students move around and meet up with another person. They share their vocabulary word with their partner and explain what it means. The partner paraphrases or summarizes what they just heard. Then the other partner shares their word, and they switch roles.

Ring the bell, and they switch to another partner and go through the same process again.

Repeat this several times, so a number of vocabulary words are shared.

Slide 19: The students are directed to find a classmate whose word connects or links to theirs in some way. For example, the words might be synonyms or antonyms, one might be an example of the other, or both might be examples of some higher-order concept.

The goal is for the students to identify some way to connect their word with a classmate’s word. When students find a link, they stand with their partner around the perimeter of the classroom.

Example on slide:  Pay Dirt + Profitable

After a certain amount of time, have those who have found “links” explain their reasoning.  If some are still in the middle of the room, they may find a link with what is shared, or be assisted by the group and join a group on the perimeter, or team up with another still in the middle.  Each time a link is made, the students should give an explanation.  It is helpful to give a sentence structure:  “Our words are related because [THING].”  (Or connected, or linked because….)

This can be repeated with additional words, and/or the same words many times, with different links, and/or  a ’49er “conversation” between those who have found linked words.

Teacher continues to ask why, why, why!

Break your links: Who else could you easily have paired with? Why does this work?


Before collecting your vocabulary pages, challenge the students:

Is there anyone who can come before the group and have a discussion using the vocabulary words?  Give them some think time with their partners and call on some students who think they can accept the challenge!