Using context clues to help
determine the meaning of words
What is a Context Clue?
Context clues are bits of information
from the text that, when combined
with prior knowledge, allow you to
make an intelligent guess about the
meaning of unknown words
Here's an example: Sue's boss was a callous
man. He did not react to her tears and
From the context you know that a callous man
does not react to tears and apologies. Callous
means “hard-hearted” or "insensitive to
Your turn
When Harry's boss went on a maternity leave,
Harry became the interim department head. He
handled employee payroll for the three months
she was away.
What do you think “interim” means?
What clues helped you to guess at the meaning?
Types of Context Clues
1) DEFINITION: The meaning of the unfamiliar word is stated in the sentence.
A person who is afraid of crowds has agoraphobia.
2) EXAMPLE: The unfamiliar word is explained through examples.
He was zealous. Once, he sat on the courthouse steps for a week to get the city to
change a law.
3) RESTATEMENT: The unfamiliar word is shown to be similar to a familiar word.
She was adroit at her job in that she could finish it in half the time of her coworkers.
4) CONTRAST: The unfamiliar word is shown to be different, or the opposite, from a
familiar word.
Some liked his laconic speeches. Then again, others preferred longer and more detailed
5) CAUSE & EFFECT: The unfamiliar word’s meaning can be inferred from cause-andeffect relationships in the text.
He had a proclivity for getting into trouble, resulting in frequent detentions.
S Sound it out. Say the word out loud to yourself a couple of times.
Does it make sense in the sentence?
C Check the Clues in the sentence and paragraph and think about what
word would fit best in place of the unknown word.
U Use the text’s main idea and the pictures to make a good guess for
the word’s meaning.
B Break the word into parts that you recognize, and/or think of similar
words that you know.
A Ask for help from a peer or adult, or use the glossary or dictionary.
Practice: Using Context Clues with
Lord of the Flies
Task: Complete the worksheet provided for each
chapter of the novel.
For each chapter:
a) Determine the meaning of the word provided
b) Record one sentence that contains an
unfamiliar word and try to determine its