Using Context Clues

9 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT use context as a clue to the meaning of a word by reading passages from The Adventure of Tom Sawyer.

Big Idea

You don't always need a dictionary to study vocabulary.


5 minutes

To begin this lesson, I want to access my students' prior knowledge about context clues.  To do this, I ask them, "When you're reading, is there a way to figure out what a word means without using a dictionary?"  By 7th grade, students are quite familiar with the idea of context clues and can articulate very well what they are and how they work.  

I always congratulate them on knowing what a context clue is and assure them that today's work will be a piece of cake because they're already such experts.  I love pumping up their egos before diving into difficult text because they will jump into this activity gleefully to be able to show me how smart they are!

Getting Down to Business

40 minutes

The sheet I use for this day's activity is a play on the Cornell Note format.  After I hand out the form to the students, I will ask them if it looks familiar.  There is at least one student in each of my classes who says that it looks like Cornell Notes because of the heading, essential question, and summary; however, it is different because there is an extra column on the right.  I again congratulate the students on their ability to see and understand this format.

I then explain how this sheet is a little bit different than our regular note format, and I let them know that we're going to walk through this vocabulary strategy together.

The first step is for student to read the passages, write "my best guess definition" and underline any clues in the passage that led them to their best guess.  I reassure them that this truly is a place for them to write their best guess.  I allow them about 7-10 minutes to work through this on their own.

The next steps of the assignment we work through as a class.  I let the students know that we are going to create class definitions for these words.  Their job is to contribute to our class discussion.

I let them know that as we go through our discussion, the left-hand column is there for them to jot down any questions they have about the word.

Once we determine what the word means, they will write the class definition under their best guess definition and then make a comparison.  If their best guess definition missed the mark, they are to draw a line through it.  I caution them against scribbling it out their best guess.  I don't want them thinking they're wrong; I want them to compare the two and make a determination about the accuracy of their best guess.

The next step of our work goes in the right-hand column.  This is where we create a sentence that uses our new vocabulary word.  We also create a sketch to help us remember what the word means. This is one of my favorite things to do with students because I'm a HORRIBLE artist.  My stick figures are truly pathetic.  I love to be really self deprecating about my pictures to show my kids that you don't have to be an artist to use this strategy effectively.  Any silly picture that helps you remember a definition will do.

We go through all of this words in this manner.  This is an opportunity to have some fun discussions about new words and how we can connect them to things we know about.

Did They Get It?

5 minutes

You will know if students are getting the hang of this or not as you have your class discussion.  Your level of vocal scaffolding (giving clues) will vary from group to group, based on the students' prior experience with vocabulary study.

They need to keep this sheet with them until tomorrow when they will read chapter 6.