Anyone that reads extensively has run into a situation where the author uses an unfamiliar word. While e-readers make it easy to select and look up new words, in many cases, its definition can be derived through context. Here is how I approach a new word: First, I always circle any word I am not familiar with. If I can break it into roots and prefixes or suffixes, I always do. I then look at what the sentence is driving at, I mean the main idea or thought being pushed to me (the reader). I then say the sentence aloud and guess at the meaning of the word. I finalize it by looking up the word in dictionary. This has served me well and I come across new words, to me, less and less. Being able to use this skill well will help you build a stellar vocabulary library as well as improve your reading comprehension. It is difficult to understand what you are expected to read if you are not sure what some words mean. Writers almost unconsciously make context available either in the same sentence or spread across the neighboring sentences.
In order to complete these worksheets, you will need to read each sentence that you are presented with completely and look for meaning of words that are often unfamiliar. Use the context clue technique we discussed above to better understand the meaning of the words and ultimately what you are reading. This collection of activity sheets will teach your students how to parse sentences and find corroborating information in order to define unknown words. Project idea: Have your students make up their own adjectives and use them in a sentence, providing enough context for a reader to define the made-up word.
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These are the more difficult words in this section.
How to Use Context Clues
Utilizing "context clues" is a reading strategy taught to students to help them figure out the meanings or definitions of unknown words. Whenever a student sees an unfamiliar word while reading, they use the other terms in that sentence (or nearby ones) to find clues about the meaning of that particular word.
Such clues can be anything from definitions and examples to synonyms and antonyms. Clues can also be extracted from meaningful portions of a word, such as suffixes and prefixes.
How Do Context Clues Help?
Context clues do more than just help students with their understanding and vocabulary. Using this method enables them to learn multiple ways of finding unknown (as well as difficult but slightly familiar terms) words and gaining a deeper comprehension of the text.
For teachers, imparting this skill develops self-sufficiency among their students. Once they've mastered the "context clues" technique, defining unfamiliar words on their own would become easier. They might even find it a fun activity while devouring the contents of a book!
Furthermore, authors can incorporate context clues into their writing in different ways. Keep in mind that the idea isn't to make students memorize all kinds of context clues. It’s more a case of learning how to understand the hints that a writer provides within a piece of text so that the readers can figure out the intended meaning.
Strategies for Reading
Following are some useful strategies for using context clues.
In this approach, the idea is to deconstruct the various parts of a word. These include the base word (also called "root word" or "word stem"), suffixes, and prefixes. Doing so can help deduce the author’s intended meaning.
Some words only have a suffix, like "reading." Moreover, some terms contain just a prefix, such as "reread," while others have both a suffix and prefix, like "pre-reading." In the same way, some words don’t contain any of these portions, such as "read," while a few have a combination, like "unreadableness."
The idea with the synonym approach is that the term next to the unfamiliar word can be used as a clue.
Explanation & Definition
In this strategy, readers try to look for an explanation or definition of the unknown word within the sentence.
The antonym method of using context clues suggests that opposite info about an unfamiliar or difficult word can be offset through the use of terms and phrases like "different from," "as opposed to," and "unlike."
Including examples related to an unknown word can provide vital clues to a reader about its possible meaning.
In this method, readers try to understand the grammatical arrangement of appositives, which can offer definitions, synonyms, and examples.
The analogy technique makes comparisons to help readers determine the meanings of unfamiliar words.
Context Clues: Examples
Definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and examples can be used as context clues. Consider the sentences below.
- Kimberley was lethargic; she had no energy or strength to get out of bed.
- Dave is a spendthrift, unlike his miserly brother.
- The students were crestfallen after finding out that the playground was waterlogged during recess.
- Henry felt remorse, or shame, for his bad behavior.
Tying It All Together…
Even seasoned language specialists and experienced teachers tend to look up the meanings of some words now and then. However, when our laptops, cell phones, or tabs aren't around, the "context clues technique" can help us understand the proper meaning of a word, sentence, or paragraph. Do try this method. You’ll find it interesting!