Context clues instruction is something that should be taught all year. Kids need lots of practice not only identifying the different types of context clues but knowing how to figure out word meanings within a context.
Let’s look at the different types of context clues and ideas for teaching them.
The 5 Types of Context Clues
Before teaching kids how to use context clues, it’s important to teach them how to identify the 5 types of context clues.
The first type is the definition. This is when a sentence includes the definition or explanation of the unknown word.
Here are sentences where the definition of hasty is included. My friend is sometimes hasty when he does his homework. He does it too quickly and is careless.
The definition of hasty is quick and careless. Both are mentioned in the sentences.
The next type of context clue is synonyms which is similar to the definition. This is when a word that has the same meaning is used in the text.
Here’s a sentence that uses a synonym: I was astonished and amazed when I won free tickets to the concert!
The word amazed is a synonym for astonished and is used in the same sentence.
Next up are antonyms which are the opposite of synonyms. This is when the opposite meaning of a word is used in the text.
Example sentence- My sister is compassionate but sometimes she can be mean.
The unknown word is compassionate. The sentence uses the conjunction, but, which signals the opposite of compassionate, which is mean.
Sometimes a sentence uses an example as the context clue. It explains what the unknown word means.
An example is used in this sentence for the word delicate: The vase is delicate because it can break easily.
The word because signals the explanation of the word delicate which means can break easily.
And finally, the most difficult context clue type is inference. You have to use the clues either in the sentence itself or the sentence before and after and infer the meaning of the unknown word.
Let’s make an inference about the meaning of determined in this sentence: My team will win the game because we are determined to do our best.
We can infer that the team is going to try their hardest to do their best and not give up because they want to win the game.
Ideas for Teaching Context Clues
After introducing the types of context clues, it’s time to practice them.
The first idea for teaching the types of context clues is to create a simple chart with the students as you teach each type. Teach one type of context clue a day and add it to the chart along with an example.
Another idea is to use picture books and find words that have good context clues. Have students identify which type of context clue helped them identify the word meanings.
After modeling it and practicing it with picture books, challenge kids to try it in their own independent reading.
Games are always a fun way to practice. I love playing a scavenger hunt where students practice finding word meanings using synonyms and antonyms.
To play this game create task cards that have sentences that include context clues. Provide a synonym and an antonym and ask students to choose the correct one for the underlined word.
As they solve the cards, they collect letters to a mystery phrase. This is a fun way to practice 2 types of context clues at the same time.
You can also make it digital by creating a Google Form where students solve those same task cards and collect the letters to the mystery phrase as they answer each question correctly.
Context clues won’t be a one-time lesson. Using context clues to figure out word meaning is something that will need to practiced throughout the year.
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