Use context to find word meaning
Common core standards
- Grade 3 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.4
- Grade 4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean) CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.4
- Grade 5 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.4
- Grade 6 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4
- Grade 7 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.4
- Analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama
- Grade 8 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.4
- Kindergarten With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.4
- Grade 1 Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.4
- Grade 2 Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.4
- Grade 3 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.4
- Grade 4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4
- Grade 5 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4
- Grade 6 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.4
Using context cues to figure out a word’s meaning is like being a detective. The reader comes across a mystery—an unknown word—and has to use clues to solve it. The clues might be words before the mystery word, after it or even in the following sentence. It requires careful thinking, rereading and fact checking.
Here’s one theory one how to use context clues:
“To Use Context Clues
- Look for clues, or hints, around a word you don’t know.
- Use the clues to guess a meaning for the word.” 
- That author has a think aloud on how to model using context clues.
Scott Greenwood and Kevin Flanigan came up with a mnemonic to explain the steps:
Look-before, at, and after the new word
Predict-quickly predict the word's meaning, remembering that a wrong prediction is often a good start
Reason-think more carefully about the word's meaning, trying to be as precise as the context clues permit
Resolve-recognize that you may need to take other steps (e.g., look it up, ask someone)
Redo¬-go through the steps again if necessary” 
There are a variety of types of context cues. Some people contend that there are four types, five types or even six types. Here is a quick summary of some different types of cues:
- “Definition–the word is defined directly and clearly in the sentence in which it appears.
- ”Antonym (or contrast)–often signaled by the words whereas, unlike, or as opposed to.
- ”Synonym (or restatement)–other words are used in the sentence with similar meanings.
- ”Inference–word meanings are not directly described, but need to be inferred from the context.
- Walt’s pugnacious behavior made his opponent back down.
- The man gigged the large fish, but he needed his friend to enlarge the hole to drag it out of the frigid water.” 
- “Explanation : The unknown word is explained within the sentence or in a sentence immediately preceding.
- ”Example: Specific examples are used to define the term.
Helpful Questions to Ask Students:
- ”You said ___, does that make sense?
- You said ___, does that sound right?
- It could be ___, but look at ___.
- Can the rest of the sentence help you?
- Try that again and think about what would make sense.
- Try that again and think about what would sound right.
- How did you know it was ___?
- Try that again.” 
- “"What's the word?" - Read a story with omitted words. These omitted words are placed on index cards and given to the students. While the teacher is reading the story, the students focus on the comprehension of the story. When the teacher stops at the blank, the students supply the words that make sense. The students read their words to complete the sentence.”Ginger Snaps Treats for Teachers Activating Strategies for Teaching Context Clues
- Trent Lorcher’s Lesson on Bright Hub is a fun way to bring group work into context clues. The teacher breaks the class into teams and gives each team the same handout with 10 words and the page number in the book that they are found on. Students have to come up with the definitions using only each other and the book. The teams then compare their answers.
- Beacon Learning Center’s Using Nonsense Words to Teach Context Clues is a great, ready-to-go lesson. At the bottom of the page is an attachment of a story about manatees with a bunch of nonsense words. Following the story is a worksheet that asks students to try to find synonyms for the nonsense words. The story is about second or third grade level.
- Manchester Context Clues Lesson Plan is less interesting, but the third page of the pdf is a good worksheet that has students try to figure out the meaning of nonsense words.
- The poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll also makes for some excellent context clues lessons as most of the words are made up. Have students try to come up with possible meanings for the words in the poem.
|Pearson Access Lewis and Clark is a upper elementary and above level activity. The students read a passage about Lewis and Clark and then use context clues to figure out what all of the words mean.|
|Los Rios Context Clues is more of a lesson than an activity. The first few slides explain what context clues are and then the slides become interactive, having students figure out the meanings of words from context and checking their answers.|
|Toon University Words in Context Game is pretty entertaining. Students have to figure out what a word means. If they get it right, they get to knock over ducks.|
|Quia’s Rags to Riches Words in Context Game is a take off of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? When students get the answer right, they get money. When they get it wrong, they go broke.|
|BBC’s Wordmaster Game is pretty challenging. Students are given a sentence with a vocabulary word missing and have to guess what the word is. There are clues and three levels of the game, but it is still a middle school level game.|
|Sadlier Oxford Cows focuses on inference. Students are given a sentence and then asked to make an inference about the vocabulary word in it. The game is pretty dry.|
|Quia’s Words in Context Game is also pretty dry. Students read a sentence and then choose the meaning of the bold word from a drop down menu. The program keeps track of their score but there are no animations at all.|
|Manatee K12’s Tutorial goes through how words like is, such as and or help tell what something means. They explain how each phrase helps and then offer practice problems.|
|AB Longman Vocabulary has three interactive worksheets on using context. Definitely not a game.|
|English Zone Words in Context is also a collection of interactive worksheets.|
|ESLUS Context Clues Cloze is a CLOZE passage with key vocabulary words missing. The students have to use context to choose which vocabulary words fit the passage the best. Middle school level.|
|ESLUS Context Clues Cloze 2 is a CLOZE passage with key vocabulary words missing. The students have to use context to choose which vocabulary words fit the passage the best. Middle school level.|
|TV411 Words in Context Lesson is similar. It starts with several slides that explain how context clues help and then has students figure out word meanings.|
|Study Zone Context Clues has a cute metaphor of a detective, but absolutely not interactive elements. The students read the story, try to figure out the meaning of the words in red, and check their answers|
- The Longman Vocabulary Website has 30 different context clues worksheets. Levels vary.
- TLS Books Context Clues is a re-teach worksheet. It explains how to use context clues at the top and then has practice questions on the bottom.
- Sinclair Centers Learning Words From Context Clues is a ten page packet with sheet explaining the different types of context clues and practice pages for each type
- RHL School Context Clues Worksheet is a middle school level worksheet.
- RHL School Context Clues Worksheet 2 is a middle school level worksheet.
- All Infro About Reading Worksheets 1 has two different context clue worksheets. Words include candid, opportunist and stupendous.
- Sinclair Reading Context Clues Worksheets has five pages of worksheets with words like inculate and deter. The sheets include information and practice of different types of context clues.
- Everyday Teaching Synonyms and Context Worksheet has students choose synonyms from the vocabulary word in the sentence.
- Marion K12 Context Clues Worksheet has students read a passage on the Civil War and then asks the students to use context clues to figure out the meanings of vocabulary words.
- Marion K 12 Context Clues Worksheet 2 is straight forward practice but really useful because it directs students on circling and showing the clue words.
- Successmaker Context and Synonyms Worksheet focuses on having students find synonyms for target words.
- Semitchell Context Clues Worksheet is a basic context clues worksheet.
|The You Tube Video of Context Clues from Comprehension Upgrade is short (one minute twenty seconds) and entertaining.|
- Jack Hartmann's Reading Strategy Song has lyrics about using context clues.
- R Garner Context Clues Power Point is a nice introduction to the concept.
- Sidebook Context Clues is a 49 slide power point with sound effects that covers all of the different types of context clues, signal words and practice questions.
- Word Detective Graphic Organizer is an awesome graphic organizer for context clues. Highly recommended!
- Context Clues Graphic Organizer is a simpler version of the same thing-- it's a three column organizer.
- Blevin Enterprises Context Clues ppt is a short (9 slide) Power Point that introduces Context Clues and has a little practice.