Context clues are a crucial, but tricky skill to learn for most students. In this post I share strategies for teaching context clues, practice activities, online games, children’s books to incorporate, and a source for lesson plans and an assessment. Use these strategies to teach context clues to help your students become stronger readers.
What are context clues?
Context clues are hints found within a sentence or paragraph, that a reader can use to understand the meanings of new or unfamiliar words.
A new word’s meaning can often be determined from clues in the surrounding sentences. What comes before and after a new word can help students determine its meaning as well as how it is used in a sentence.
What are the 5 main types of context clues?
Knowing the different types of context clues helps students better identify these clues in texts. There are 5 main types of context clues that students should learn in elementary classrooms.
- Definition: When the meaning of the unknown word is directly given in the sentence.
- Examples: When examples of the unknown word are given in the sentence or sentences around the word.
- Synonyms: When the sentence gives a word that means the same thing as the unknown word.
- Antonyms: When the sentence gives a word that means the opposite of the unknown word.
- Inferences: When there is no clear explanation of the unknown word, so you have to look around the word for other clues and hints in the sentence.
Examples of Context Clues
While you teach context clues, you’ll want to give plenty of examples of each type of context clue for students to fully grasp how to apply this skill. The following sentences contain examples of each type of clue. The words in bold represent an unknown word, while the words in italics represent the context clue.
- An atlas is a book of maps and charts. (Definition)
- The story was full of fictional creatures, such as unicorns, dragons, and mermaids. (Example)
- Just like her caring sister, Allie is very compassionate. (Synonym)
- The house across the street may be valuable, but this one is a worthless shack. (Antonym)
- The storm kept Tim up all night. When morning came, he was still drowsy. (Inference)
How do I teach context clues?
Questions to Ask Students When Teaching Context Clues
One of the context clues strategies I have found most helpful is to ask specific questions about unknown words students encounter while reading.
- What information comes before or after that word that gives you a hint to what the word means?
- How is the word used in the sentence? In what context is the word used?
- What part of speech do you think this word is? Is it an action word, a describing word, or the name of a person, place, or thing?
Determining the parts of speech as a strategy for teaching context clues can give students even more insight into the unknown word’s meaning.
Context Clues Activities
Try one or more of these fun activities to get students engaged in your context clues lessons.
Task Card Gallery Walk
Display context clues task cards throughout your classroom. Then, have students work independently or in small groups to use context clues to determine the meanings of unknown words on the task cards.
Find Context Clues in Kid-Centered Newspaper Articles
Give students a kid-friendly newspaper article and have them search for context clues for unknown words within the article. Alternatively, have students write articles themselves and trade with a partner to complete this activity.
Play Online Context Clues Games
These online games can be used as a whole class activity, or students can play independently on their devices. You can also use these games as an option for a centers activity.
Introduce Context Clues with a Song
Play this fun song for your class to grab their attention and help them build a foundation for their learning.
Read Aloud Books
There are a ton of great mentor texts to teach grammar skills out there. Here are my picks for teaching context clues.
Books to Teach Context Clues
Context Clues Lesson Plans
Do you need ready to teach lesson plans and no-prep printable activities for teaching context clues? I recommend this engaging grammar unit that includes an entire week of context clues lesson plans, worksheets, task cards, PowerPoint lessons and an assessment for students to learn the five types of context clues and how to use them to determine the meaning of new vocabulary words.
Give your students quick, daily grammar practice in a variety of formats!
Save this post for later so you have it when you plan!