Diamonds or Coal

Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.” —Malcolm Forbes

Good readers are often able to use context clues to determine the meanings of unfamiliar words, when they are available in the text. These students notice the words and phrases in a passage that can assist them in figuring out what an unknown word means. Struggling readers, who are not able to do this, should be given direct instruction in how to effectively look for these types of clues. Here is a mini-lesson I have created to help struggling readers:

Diamonds or Coal: A Context Clues Strategy Lesson

Is your sentence filled with diamonds (words that help you figure out the meanings of any unknown words) or coal (words that don’t help you understand at all)?

Diamonds include definitions, restatements, examples, comparisons or contrasts, descriptions, and synonyms or antonyms given with the new word in the sentence or paragraph.

We need to learn how to find each kind of diamond! They are valuable.

What can we do about the coal?

§ Learn more about the diamonds, after all coal turns into diamonds given enough time and effort!
§ Carefully reread.
§ Look for other clues: picture clues, prefixes, suffixes, compound word, or word parts.
§ Make a guess based on the first letter(s). See if your idea makes sense.
§ Find help: a friend, parent, teacher, dictionary, or glossary, if it is a non-fiction book.


The diamond and coal cards are meant for student use during independent reading. He or she can make a stack of diamonds found and coal strategies used during reading, or the cards could be kept on a ring as a handy reference.

Diamonds and Coal Update

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