Vocabulary is a powerful part of the reading experience. As we all know, two students can read the same text, and walk away with vastly different levels of understanding, simply because of their familiarity with the vocabulary used! So, the importance of vocabulary work in our teaching routines can not be overstated. We need to be explicitly teaching vocabulary practices to our students.
Of course, we can’t possibly teach our students every unfamiliar word in the world. They will come across words they do not know in their independent reading, and for years after they leave our classrooms. So how do we support our students in vocabulary growth, without teaching them each word? We develop a routine for context clues!
What are context clues?
Context clues are the parts of the text that author includes to give hints about what a words may mean. There are six main types of context clues that we teach in upper elementary: inferring the meaning, reading the definition embedded in the text, finding synonyms, finding antonyms, and looking for examples. Knowing these clues helps students make meaning of unfamiliar words in any text.
A Context Clues Teaching Routine
The way to grow our students in any reading skill is to practice it often! This is why I recommend establishing a regular routine for practicing context clues. A weekly routine will help students cement the steps they need to determine meaning of new words when they are reading on their own.
Teachers can display the context clue of the week on a PowerPoint presentation, or print off the context clue word cards to display in their classroom. This is the 5-day routine I use with my own students!
Monday – Display the context clue of the week. You can print them or display digitally, depending on your teaching situation. Students will read the context clue of the week, predict what the word means and identify the type of context clue that helped them make their prediction.
Tuesday – Students will review the prediction they made the day before. Then, they will reference a dictionary to identify the correct definition of the weekly word.
Wednesday – Students dig deeper and consult a thesaurus to identify antonyms, synonyms, and the part of speech of the word from Monday. This will help understand the word even more deeply! Now, they will know when they see a synonym or antonym for this word in a text, and be able to make the connection back to this original word.
Thursday – Students create an illustration to represent the weekly word. Illustrations are such an impactful tool for learning new things! Giving students the chance to draw a picture of their new word of the week will make it more likely that different styles of learners will remember it.
Friday – Students will create their own sentence or short paragraph using a new set of context clues to show they truly understand what the word means! If you know a little about Bloom’s Taxonomy, you know that we’ve moved the students deeper on the spectrum of understanding. Now, they are being asked to apply their learning by creating text of their own. If your students can successfully do this, then you know they’ve grown in their context clue understanding this week!
Getting Started with the Routine
If this routine sounds like the right fit for your classroom, I have the resources I use with my own students listed HERE. This bundle has three different levels of my weekly routine, making it possible for you to differentiate for a variety of learners in your classroom!
Learn more about how I teach context clues in my classroom by reading this blog post!
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Context Clues Word Of The Day
Includes 5 word of the day cards that will help students become experts at using context clues. Also includes 2 student worksheets to work on word of the day or word of the week and a teacher guide.