Reading Comprehension
Ongoing Activity
Grades 6–12
Language Arts, History, Performing Arts
Small Group, Entire Class, Individual, Writing, Out of Seat


  • Students will define new vocabulary words from Travels with Charley and place them on a “Word Wall.”
  • Students will identify the etymology of many of the words.
  • Students will be able to use these new words in sentences/short skits.


Students need to understand and define words from the book with which they are not familiar. In small, pre-assigned pairs, students will be responsible for choosing and defining, for the class as a whole, vocabulary words.

Ultimately, it should be the students’ responsibility to make their own vocabulary lists and definitions, as well as the etymology of every fifth word (or another amount chosen by the teacher). This list should include slang terms as well. Below is a “starter” list of words and definitions:

  • Moored (p. 11, verb): To secure a ship, boat, etc. by cables, anchors or lines.
  • Shanks (p. 32, noun): Legs.
  • Cur (p. 50, noun): A mongrel dog.
  • Pullman (p. 74, noun): A luxurious railway coach or car.
  • Amorous (p. 99, adjective): Displaying love or desire.
  • Jaunty (p. 111, adjective): Lively, carefree.
  • Incised (p. 128, verb): Cut into.
  • Miocene (p. 147, noun): Geological period from approximately 23 million to 5 million years ago.
  • Bracero (p. 175, noun): Mexican farm workers brought to the United States for “temporary” farm labor during World War II.
  • Lynch (p. 193, verb): To unlawfully kill a person for a crime or a perceived crime, especially against social norms. Used as a method of enforcing the power of whites over African Americans.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Copies of Travels with Charley
  • Classroom dictionaries
  • Travels with Charley notebooks
  • Butcher paper/markers
  • Copies of vocabulary organizer (blank or partially completed version). Optional.

Estimated Time

Ongoing—teachers should take time as needed/available (perhaps 5-10 minutes at the end of each class devoted to Travels with Charley).


  • Display vocabulary organizer on projection screen.
  • Optional: Hand out copies of the vocabulary organizer (blank or partially completed).
  • For vocabulary terms, students should become “vocabulary partners” with someone at the beginning of the unit. At the end of each class devoted to Travels with Charley (5-10 minutes, time permitting), partners should meet and identify and define new vocabulary words.
  • Students will use the vocabulary organizer (or create one on their own in their notebooks) to list the page number, to quote the passage where the word is used, to define the word and give its part of speech, and to use the word in a sentence of their own.
  • Eventually, all words defined in class will be shared by all on a “Word Wall.”
  • This activity can be done in a digital environment as well using wiki pages, a Google Form, or other resources.

The Word Wall

  • All student-identified vocabulary words (or other key terms) and definitions should be written and posted on butcher paper in the classroom; this is essentially an ongoing “word wall,” which students have created and of which they can be proud.
  • A word wall is a display area in the classroom devoted strictly to vocabulary/terms that will be used, or are being used, during the course of a particular unit of study.
  • A word wall may be unfamiliar to secondary teachers (it is mostly associated with the elementary classroom).  Regardless, the word wall is wonderful for all ages and promotes vocabulary growth leading ultimately to improvement in literacy. It is a great device for all, but especially for those students who do not speak English as their first language.
  • Use butcher paper to tape up (or place in “pockets,” etc.) words/definitions around the classroom. Then, as teachers or students introduce new vocabulary, add the words to the wall. Encourage students to add small drawings as well.
  • All students will be expected to write in their notebooks (or vocabulary organizer) the words and definitions.
  • For ongoing homework, students will be expected to use all new words in original sentences.
  • Ongoing, students (in small groups) may perform a short skit using all the words defined so far.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up


  • This is an ongoing activity, but student partners should be sure to maintain their list of words and definitions. After the unit, partners can switch and test each other on words/definitions for a final vocabulary examination for Travels with Charley.


  • Teachers will monitor and grade student-based tests.


  • Test students regularly on words and definitions. The frequency of such vocabulary quizzes (with the Word Wall covered, of course!) is up to the individual teachers. A final examination would also be recommended.

California State Content Standards Met

  • Performing Arts:  Theatre Content Standards 6-12
  • ~Artistic Perception:  1
  • ~Creative Expression: 2
  • ~Historical and Cultural Context:  3
  • ~Connections, Relationships, Applications: 5

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4
  • ~Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: 10
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 3
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4,5
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration:  1
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Conventions of Standard English: 1,2
  • ~Knowledge of Language: 3
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4,5,6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • ~Craft and Structure:  4
  • ~Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:  10
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing:  4,5

Related Lesson Plans for this Work