Lesson: Unknown Word: context clues

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Lesson Objective

Students will use context clues to determine the meaning of an unknown word.

Lesson Plan

Connection (3-5 mins): Readers you have worked really hard to use strategies to determine the meaning of a word.  However, we can’t always rely on word parts to determine the meaning of a word because not all words have prefixes and suffixes.  Today, we will learn a new strategy to help us find the meaning of words that we do not know.


Teach (10-12 mins): Students should be seated on the carpet with a partner.  They will be expected to turn and talk to that partner during this lesson.  Today we will use context clues to figure out the definition of unknown words.  Context clues are hints the author gives you in the story to figure out an unknown word.  The author doesn’t give us the meaning of the word but they give us clues that help us figure out the word meaning.


Let me show you what I mean.  Teacher places context clues worksheet on the overhead.  The first example we will look at has the word favorable.  Even though this is a word with a suffix, the author provides us a lot of context clues to help us figure out the word meaning.  The word is describing the Harry Potter movie, and it says that many people say the movie and liked it enough to see it several times.  If I’m thinking about that favorable must be a good word because if the movie was good then people would see it many times.  The only answer choice that fits this idea is the word positive.  I think that must be the a good definition of the word, favorable.


Did you see how I took time to talk through the example and read the context clues to help me figure out the word meaning.  It is important to read all of the sentences around the unknown word to gather all the evidence we need to figure out the word meaning.  Let’s look at the second example.  Teacher reads aloud the second sentence.  Think about the clues in this sentence and turn to tell your partner which answer choice you think is the best definition of the word timid.  Students turn and talk while teacher listens in to conversations.  Teacher calls on a student to share out response and talks through their thinking. 


I think you are right that timid means shy.  If someone is quiet and doesn’t speak in class they are probably shy or timid.  Good job readers.  Try again with the third example.  After I read aloud the sentence, turn and tell your partner the best answer choice. Students turn and talk while teacher listens in to conversations.  Teacher calls on a student to share out response and talks through their thinking. 


I noticed that this example was a little hard for you all.  The clues tell us that the parents were penalized and they had to pay a ticket.  I think about when I’ve gotten a parking ticket in the city I had to pay money or a fine for my mistake.  I agree with you that the best answer is fined so penalized could also mean fined. 


Are you ready to try on your own?  When you return to your seats today you will be reading from your “just right” books.  As you read create a list of words you do not know and try your best to write a definition for these words.  Remember to read the sentence before and after the word to use all the context clues the author gave you.  Off you go readers.



Active Engagement (15-20 mins):  Students should return to their seats to work independently.  Each student should have an independent reading book at their desk.  Students should read independently from their “just right” books.  As they read they should record any words they do not recognize or do not know the definition of in their reader’s notebooks.  They will be expected to formulate a definition of this word using the context clues in the book they are reading.  Teacher should check in with as many students as possible to monitor their progress.  Teacher may also pull a small group of students who struggled during the mini-lesson.


Exit Slip/Share (3-5 mins): Students will complete the last seven questions of the context clues quiz.  This will serve as an exit slip to determine mastery of the skill.  Students may also share out any words they were able to define during the active engagement part of the less as an informal assessment.


Reflection: It is difficult to allow students to work in their independent reading books because there is no guarantee they will find a word they do not recognize or that the context clues are there to help them determine the word meaning.  However, including the exit slip gives me a chance to monitor their progress and mastery of the skill.  It would also be a good alternative to have an article readily available to have all students read that has clear examples of context clues. 

Lesson Resources

context clues worksheet.doc  


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