Introduction to Context Clues - Center on Technology and Disability

Introduction to Context Clues
What are Context Clues?
• Words and phrases that help reveal the
meaning of an unknown word. They can
appear in the same sentence, paragraph,
or section as the word.
• Definitions or examples in nearby text can
offer hints about a word’s meaning.
• Synonyms and antonyms can also be
context clues.
Six Common Types of Context Clues
• Root word and affix: People who study birds are experts in
• Contrast: Unlike mammals, birds incubate their eggs outside their
• Logic: Birds are always on the lookout for predators that might do
harm to their young.
• Definition: Frugivorous birds prefer eating fruit to any other kind of
• Example or illustration: Some birds like to build their nests in
inconspicuous spots—high up in the tops of trees, well-hidden by
• Grammar: Many birds migrate twice each year.
How Are Context Clues Important?
• Help readers define unknown words.
• Students draw upon surrounding text to gain insight into new terms
and ideas.
• Combine with word analysis strategies to help students become
more skilled readers.
How Do Context Clues Help Students?
• When your students know how to use this practice, they become
better, more fearless readers.
• Even if a new word slows them down, they have the tools they
need to tackle it head on and make sense of it. That means that
new words aren’t obstacles; they are steps to new knowledge.
How Can I Prepare Students to Use This
• Provide clear explanations of what context clues are and how to
identify them in text.
• Offer online and print reference materials (dictionaries and
thesauruses), as well as a variety of texts.
• Share strategies to help students use tools to interpret context
• Give students lots of opportunities to practice finding context clues
in print and digital text in all content areas.
Discussion Questions 1
1. Why is the ability to use context clues especially important for
struggling readers?
2. In what ways have you taught your students about the six types of
context clues?
3. In what ways does an online dictionary and/or thesaurus provide
support for students?
How Can I Support Students' Use of
Context Clues?
Use of Evidence-Based Practices
• Provide Clear Explanations
• Give Students Strategies and Models
• Provide Opportunities for Practice
Differentiated Instruction
• Plan instruction that considers students' readiness, learning needs,
and interests.
• Use a range of technology tools to:
– engage learners at varying levels
– engage learners in multiple ways.
– offer students options for demonstrating understanding and mastery
Ways to Differentiate
• By Content
– Different levels of reading or resource materials, reading
buddies, small group instruction, curriculum compacting, multilevel computer programs and Web Quests, audio materials, etc.
• By Product
– Activity choice boards, tiered activities, multi-level learning
center tasks, similar readiness groups, choice in group work,
varied journal prompts, mixed readiness groups with targeted
roles for students, etc.
• By Process
– Tiered products, students choose mode of presentation to
demonstrate learning, independent study, varied rubrics,
mentorships, interest-based investigations
Ways to Differentiate
• By Readiness
– Options in content, topic, or theme, options in the
tools needed for production, options in methods for
• By Profile
– Consideration of gender, culture, learning styles,
strengths, and weaknesses
• By Interests
– Identification of background knowledge/gaps in
learning, vary amount of direct instruction, and
practice, pace of instruction, complexity of activities,
and exploration of a topic
Discussion Questions 2
1. What types of instructional materials or tools could you use to
differentiate instruction?
2. In what ways could you modify your instruction if your students
were reading fiction versus nonfiction?
3. How might you vary the level of text complexity you use to teach
context clues?
Activities Before Reading
• Review the six common types of context clues.
• Look at the text as a class, taking note of clues (images, headings,
bolded words, etc.).
• Ask students to make guesses about what the text might be about.
• Skim the text and highlight or underline any unknown words -digital text is great for this task!
Activities During Reading
• Remind students to use the appropriate strategies when they come
across an unknown word.
• Encourage students to use online tools, such as the dictionary and
Activities After Reading
• Discuss the words selected and the appropriate meanings,
according to the tools.
• Make a list of the words that were unknown and write the definition
for each.
• Have students write sentences that use each of the new words in a
context related to the overall meaning of what they read.
Discussion Questions 3
1. What are different ways (online and offline) in which your students
could be reminded of the six common types of context clues?
2. If students are using digital text, which features can help them
identify context clues?
3. How do you assess your students' use of context clues?
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