Do you have students that regularly come up to you and ask you, "What does this word mean?" This happens to me every year. It usually happens with students who are reading text that is either "above" their reading level or is a non-fiction book that contains Tier 3 words. Teaching context clues and how to find them serves readers well by increasing their reading comprehension and cutting down on the need to come and ask you what that the word means.
Here are some engaging ideas and resources that will help you introduce and the types of context clues to your students, how to identify them, and how to implement them as they read.
I've always found that sharing a video or a catchy tune at the start of a lesson gets students engaged. It's also a quick and no prep way to start a lesson. I consider that a Win-Win!
Below are some videos you can you use as part of the introduction to the lesson. To watch some of the videos listed below, you may need a membership, but many times these sites have a free trial membership you can sign up for.
- Brainpop is always a fan favorite in my classroom. I love how they cover so many different skills and kids love how quirky Moby can be. They have a context clue video that goes over how a reader can figure out the meaning of a word. They Medieval Times references are quite fun.
- Flocabulary provides a quick 2 minute video that provides examples for synonyms, antonyms, examples and explanations. They provide it in a catchy tune that your students are sure to continue to sing throughout the day.
When teaching context clues, I like to use the acronym IDEAS. I tell my students that they need to look around for "IDEAS" as to what the word may mean.
As I teach, I provide my students with visuals. This is important because it helps them understand the skill being introducing. Resources such as posters, anchor charts, or interactive notebook activities are great tools to use.
These resources can also be displayed in the classroom or on a whiteboard. Students can copy them into their notebooks or mini anchor charts can be provided for them to glue into their interactive journals.
(You can grab this free anchor chart set by clicking on the image below.)
Provide Practice Activities
Once the skill has been introduced to the students, practice opportunities are essential since they offer students the opportunity to master the skill. These can be provided as a whole group or individually.
Some examples might be to:
- Provide students with text that is rich with context clues. Newsela is a great resource that provides a plethora of resources. Take the examples below that come from an article titled "Acceleration: A Historian Reflects on a Lifetime of Change."
(The image above shows two examples of definitions for Cosmologists and Paleolithic era.)
(The image above shows examples for transportation.)
- Want to make it even more engaging? Provide the students with mini magnifying glasses and tell them they will be looking "closely for clues."
- Task cards always make a great independent practice activity. A new fan favorite are Boom Cards. These digital task cards are just so easy to use. There is no prep involved, and they're self-checking.
- A more challenging activity, and one that will really get students thinking and applying their knowledge, is to give them different vocabulary words along with the definition and part of speech. You can even use your weekly vocabulary words. Then, have your students use the words in a sentence. Want to bump up the challenge even further? Challenge them to write four sentences for each word you assign to them. Have them use a definition, examples, a synonym, and an antonym.
(You can grab this free context clues challenge worksheet by clicking on the image below.)
I hope you've found a few engaging activities that you can use when teaching context clues to your students. Placing a little emphasis on teaching students strategies for working with unknown words will go a long way in increasing their reading comprehension.