It is no secret that many of our students don’t come to us reading on grade level. It can be easy to become overwhelmed at the wide discrepancies in the reading skills of our students! I have found that focusing on using context clues to determine the meaning of unknown words is beneficial for students of all abilities. Students regularly run into questions about the meaning of words on multiple choice tests, and while it is impossible to teach them the meaning of every word ever in a year, I can teach them a very important skill that will help them out with these types of questions. Only working on context clues worksheets can be boring, so I try to incorporate a variety of context clues activities on a regular basis in my class.
1. Use authentic context clues examples.
I take a picture or take notes whenever I come across a word that requires me to use context clues. It is usually in novels I’m reading, but it sometimes comes from news articles. I like to display the real-life example in class and have my students try to figure out the meaning of the words. If the word is particularly challenging, I’ll include multiple choice options. My students love seeing that this is a skill that I still use. It also often opens up conversations about what I’m currently reading in my free time. I don’t have a regular schedule for this, but I try to do it once or twice a week. I’ve even had students show me their own examples and I’ve shared them with the class.
2. Stop and focus on it in class.
I pause a lot when we are reading together in class. I know my students don’t love it when we interrupt a good part, but hey, we’re there to build skills. I stop and discuss the meanings of words I think not all students might know as often as possible. Many times it is a word I’ve already picked out. I like to plan ahead, and I’ve been teaching for long enough that I’ve basically got some of the stories memorized. But I will also regularly pause for something based on how my students react. Many students benefit from teachers modeling good reading behavior and pausing to determine the meaning of a word is certainly beneficial to any reader.
3. Use engaging context clues worksheets.
Practice using context clues doesn’t have to be boring! I created these fun context clues color by number activities that my students just loved! Students used context clues to determine the meaning of unknown words and then color in boxes to reveal a mystery image. These engaging context clues worksheets are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
4. Incorporate regular practice using context clues.
When I first realized that I needed to include more context clues for practice, I searched high and low for resources. I needed something quick and interesting that was also challenging. I found some resources that I thought might work, but the words were so easy that almost all of my students already knew the meaning. That wasn’t going to cut it.
I created daily reading passages that told the story of an interesting mystery over the course of a week. Each day included two questions that required students to use context clues to determine the meaning of a word. They were a hit! My students loved the mysteries. Some even researched them on their own! And I was pleasantly surprised to see that my students were performing better on assessments that covered word meaning after this practice.
It can be overwhelming when we think of the different skills that are students need more practice with. Differentiation is important, but it can be overwhelming to do it for every lesson. Focusing on context clues on a regular basis can be beneficial for all of your students. Context clues worksheets can be helpful, but it is important to incorporate a variety of context clues activities so that students can engage in authentic practice.