Use “Zippy the Zebra” to teach new words from context!

“So, what does symbiosis mean?” As I looked around the group of seven and 8 year-olds gathered around me, they looked back at me with big question marks in their eyes. “Ah…I have got their attention,” I thought.  “Do you want to know how you can find the meaning of a word that you don’t know?” This time I could see their eyes twinkling with curiosity.

Having established a context, I jumped into my explanation.

I helped the kids understand the concept of context clues; basically if they do not know the meaning of a word, they can look into HOW it is being used and try to guess the meaning from the text itself.

Of course, there is no better way to practice than through stories. So I used Bookbox’s “Zippy the Zebra” story. It is an amazing story about a Zebra that is troubled with pesky fleas and gets unexpected help from the birds perched on the branch above.  Zippy gets rid of the fleas and the birds get to have a feast – thus, it shows symbiosis! Of course, by the end of the story, the kids pretty much figure out the meaning by themselves.

Symbiosis is just one example. The story has quite a few words that can be taught to even younger kids. For example, thumping or swishing a tail is beautifully illustrated through actions carried out lovably by Zippy!

This story is also really good to use while working on prediction skills! But of course, that’s another blog.



character 7
Swati Saxena is the founder of Read To Speak, an educational start-up that focuses on building reading and communication skills. She can be contacted at Read To Speak, Ideapad, CIE, IIM Ahmedabad.
Find Read To Speak on Facebook.

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