I told students that when good readers come to a word they do not know, they don’t just keep reading. They try to figure it out by using context clues. Context clues are the words or phrases AROUND a word that help the reader figure out its meaning.
IN CLASS: dough, p. 4, advertisement, p. 8, shuffling, p. 8 (The page number indicates where the vocabulary word appears in the book.)
I wrote a few sentences on the board with unknown words and modeled using context clues to figure them out. I wrote the following sentence on the board: I was excited about staying in a yurt when my family and I went camping. I underlined the words and phrases (clues) in the sentence that helped me figure out the word. I said what I thought the word meant based on the clues and substituted the word for the unknown word in the sentence to check to see if it made sense. I emphasized to students that it was not enough to stop at coming up with a meaning for the word. Good readers check to see if it makes sense. (If they can’t figure out the word, they can use a dictionary or ask someone for the meaning.)
I displayed sentences from Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLahlan for student practice. It is a story we are currently reading as a class. I guided them in locating context clues in the sentences. I wanted to be sure students were actively identifying the context clues so I had them write the clues on their whiteboard. We discussed our definitions and substituted them in the sentences to see if they made sense.
Students used a vocabulary desk mat to write context clues to help them determine the meaning of unknown words. The mat was made of butcher paper that covered their desk. The desk mat engaged my visual and tactile learners. They could see the process of using context clues and move around as they used the mat. They had the option of working with a partner and drawing a picture for the vocabulary words (if they finished early), thus engaging my verbal and artistic learners. I wanted to guide students in identifying the vocabulary words for their first time, so I gave a word list with page numbers from the book to use. This gave them practice using an actual story we are reading in class versus isolated sentences. Overall, this assignment helps them understand the story in greater depth.
I assessed students real time during guided practice. I could readily see which students had mastered the concept and those who needed additional help. This was important as students moved to independent practice. Those who had mastered the skill were able to move to independent practice and I was able to provide support before releasing those who had not.