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Context Clues

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Keywords: vocabulary, context clues, word parts
Subject(s): Reading, English/Language Arts, Grammar
Grades 4 through 8
School: New Kent Middle School, New Kent, VA
Planned By: Sarah Hodges
Original Author: Sarah Hodges, New Kent

LCD projector
SMART Board / Promethean Board
Several sentences with strong context clues
Index cards for students
List of common word parts (roots and affixes) for each student

1. Discuss the words "context" and "clues" with the class to activate their prior knowledge and determine how much they already know. Most students will be able to define "clues," but the word "context" may be more difficult. As a warm-up, use the word "context" in several sentences that have clues that define it. See if students can figure out what "context" means based on the sentences you provide.

Some examples (I teach middle school, so I like to use goofy sentences--be warned):

-Zack was trapped by a rabid pack of slobbering Rottweilers. Given the context, he didn't think it was a good idea to slather himself with the steak.
-Lisa's friend, Meg, told her a comment her boyfriend had said at lunch. Meg didn't do a very good job of using it in the correct context, and Lisa got upset.
-Taken out of context, me writing on the back of my hand during the test probably DID look a little fishy.

Use several examples and then explain to the students that they were just using context clues. Explain that using context clues is a strategy they need to use in order to understand unfamiliar words. Compare your students to detectives. They must investigate a sentence to see if there are any clues that define the "killer" word.

2. Post several example sentences that have strong context clues on your SMART Board. Be sure to put the unfamiliar words in a different color than the rest of the sentence. Model the first one yourself. Identify the unfamiliar word in the sentence and tell students you are hunting for clues about what it means. Tell them you are going to underline "evidence" using one of the SMART Board pens. Your modeling may sound like the following:

"Okay, gang, we've got a sentence here with a tricky word. Our sentence reads, 'By handing Josh a pair of khakis and a polo shirt, his dad IMPLIED that the Guns and Roses t-shirt Josh had on just wan't going to cut it for their formal dinner.' I see a word I'm not sure about, so I'm going to look for clues and see if I can figure out what it means. Our word is "implied." His dad is handing him different clothing, but he didn't really say anything to Josh. I know that people are supposed to wear nice clothing to fancy dinners. I'm going to underline 'By handing Josh a pair of khakis and a polo shirt.' His dad is trying to give him a message, but again, he doesn't say anything. I think "implied" must mean 'hinted,' kind of like telling but not saying anything. Okay, let's look at another sentence."

At this point, the class could study another sentence that had "implied" as the unfamiliar word or could move on to a new word. The second sentence should be done as a class. The teacher can still underline, but with class feedback. As the lesson progresses, student volunteers could be called up to underline the evidence for each sentence.

Alternatively, sentences with blanks could be provided and a word bank posted to the side. Using their fingers on the SMART Board, students could take turns "dragging" the correct words to their blanks and explain the context clues in each sentence that helped them reach their conclusions.

3. Once students have practiced, they could each choose a tricky word (one from their reading or one from a vocabulary list) and write a sentence using their word on their index cards with the caveat that the sentence must be loaded with context clues. The teacher could collect these, load them onto the Smartboard for the next day and repeat the lesson using student sentences.

4. As students become acquainted with their word parts (roots and affixes), they could use those as context clues to identify the meanings of unfamiliar words as well.

*Enrichment or extension activities for context clues could take the form of videos from unitedstreaming, www.tv411.com, or a simple battleship game on a quia website.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Use words from other curriculum areas with this context clues lesson. Words from social studies, science, and math are great to use with this and you still get them to practice this invaluable reading skill.
Links: Example Quia Site
Materials: English/Language Arts
Other Items: 1 LDC Projector, $750.00 each, total of $750.00
1 SMARTBoard, $3000 each, total of $3000.00