Strategy

Context Clues

UDL 2.1 UDL 5.2

Using context clues is an explicitly taught reading strategy that students use as they read to figure out the meaning of an unknown word. When coming across an unknown word, a student uses other words in the text that are usually in the same sentence or nearby sentences that provide clues as to the meaning of the unknown word. These clues may include synonyms, antonyms, definitions or examples. Using these clues, students derive the meaning of the unknown word in a text. Context clues are often taught during literacy blocks or in small-group, guided reading instruction. The teacher explicitly models the strategy using authentic texts or shorter passages. The teacher can then apply this strategy while thinking aloud during read aloud, shared reading or during a reading conference to reinforce the strategy.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Templates

Notetaking Guide for Recording Context Clues

Student notetaking guides for recording context clues and definitions of new words. The reference chart gives definitions and signal words for commonly used context clues.

Grade 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 · Reading, Language · 2 pages


Templates

Sentence Frames for Recording Context Clues

Student notetaking guides for recording context clues and definitions of new words. The sentence frames help guide students in discovering the meaning of a new word. The reference chart gives definitions and signal words for commonly used context clues.

Grade 3, 4, 5 · Reading · 2 pages


Templates

Basic Log for Recording Context Clues

A log for students to record the words they learn, the context clues used, and the definition of the word. The log can be referred to during activities as well as preparing for assessments.

Grade 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 · Reading · 2 pages


Templates

Advanced Log for Recording Context Clues

An advanced log for students to record the words they learn, the context clues used, and the definition of the word. The log can be referred to during activities as well as preparing for assessments.

Grade 6, 7, 8 · Reading · 50 pages


Implementation Tips

Support using Visual Aids
Remind students to reference context clue visual aids, such as posters and bookmarks with a checklist of strategies.
Practice using Authentic Texts
Provide students with ample opportunities to practice this strategy using authentic texts at their independent reading level. For students who need additional practice, supplement with shorter chunks of text on task cards or worksheets.
Modeling across Genres
Find opportunities to continually model the strategy during read-aloud, in morning messages and in content-specific subject areas such as science or social studies.

Examples

ELL
Explicitly teach ELL students the strategy of using context clues. Model and think aloud the strategy using a text displayed up on the board for all students to see. Use shorter passages or carefully selected, culturally relevant texts that provide meaningful opportunities to use context clues.
Guided Reading
When teaching context clues in a small, guided-reading group, carefully select a text that provides ample opportunities for students to actually use context to decipher meaning of words they may not know. Students can reference visual aids to give them specific ways to approach context clues: using prefixes and suffixes, using the sentence before or after and using the words in the actual sentence.
Centers
After teaching context clues in a whole class lesson, follow up with practice using center activities such as games. Students read short paragraphs on cards and try to figure out the meaning of a designated word using context. They can earn points or spaces on a gameboard with each word successfully deciphered.