What Does That Mean: Using Context Clues to Understand New Words

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SWBAT to use context clues to helps them understand new words.

Big Idea

When students can identify which type of context clue is present, they can utilize the clue to understand new words.


10 minutes

This is part two of a two day lesson. The students seem to feel really comfortable about guessing an appropriate replacement word for new or tricky words in the texts they are reading. However, I want them to be more meta-cognitive about the context clues they are using to determine what an appropriate synonym would be. When students are aware that they don't understand a word, they can stop and use strategies to correct their mistake.

In this lesson, I use a read aloud to describe different type of context clues. A read aloud gives students example from an actual book and shows them the type of work that I will eventually expect them to do in their own reading. The three different types of context clues I teach them are: where the text gives an example matching the new word, where the text directly defines the word, or the text gives an antonym. I chose these types because they are the most common context clues that show up in the books that students read.

I model how I figure out which type of context clue it is by paying really close attention to the words around the tricky word in the sentence. For example, I talk out loud how I use the italicized parts of these sentences to help me understand the bold words.

1. (Example): The weather is in the south is so humid that when I go outside during the day my skin gets sticky and the air feels heavy.

2. (Definition): I love wearing moccasins, a pair of flat shoes made out of leather, whenever I feel like relaxing.

3. (antonym): The mall was humongous, not like the tiny department store we have in our town.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

After I model my thinking about how context clues help me understand a new word, I ask them to do it. I have three more sentences from the class read aloud. I attempted to find sentences that showed the three different types of context clues.

We went through the thought process by first suggesting a synonym and then explaining why that was the most appropriate word. For each sentence, I called on three-six students. 

Independent Practice

35 minutes

While they are reading an independent book , they are to find a sentence with a tricky word, look to a few sentences before and after to determine what kind of context clue is supporting their understanding of the word. They are to write a few examples in their learning journals.

When they are finished, I ask for a few students to share. Other students may chime in to explain why the speaker might be wrong if they can support their ideas.