Using Clues to Figure out Meanings of Words

Using Clues to Figure out Meanings of Words

Build Sentence Comprehension: Context Clues (1)

  1. Break students into groups based on need
  2. Students who scored low in Sentence Comprehension and who have trouble figuring out word meanings will benefit from this task
  3. Have students study the types of context clues on the front of the sheet, complete with examples and descriptions
  4. As students read the passage, ask them to pay attention to sentences containing unfamiliar words and write them in the appropriate place on the sheet
  5. For each sentence, students should use context clues to figure out the meaning and complete the task
  6. Students should work in pairs or groups of four to complete the reading and the task
  7. Students are to discuss the assignment with their partner/group as they are completing the task; however, all students are to complete their own assignment and have their own finished product to turn in

Build Sentence Comprehension: Context Clues

The context of a word is its environment or the words which surround it. By looking closely at these surrounding words, you can pick up hints or clues which will help you with the meaning of a difficult word. There are several different types of context clues, as shown below. Knowing something about these different types can help sharpen your word attack skills and improve your overall reading ability.

Read through the types of context clues and their examples below. Once you understand the types, complete the task on the next page.

Types of Context Clues
  1. Clues supplied through synonyms:
Carly is fond of trite, overused expressions in her writing. Her favorite is “You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.” (“Trite” and “overused” are synonyms.)
  1. Clues contained in comparisons and contrasts:
As the trial continued, the defendant's guilt became more and more obvious. With any new evidence against him, there would be no chance of acquittal. (In other words, it was so obvious that the defendant was guilty, that there would be no chance of him getting off the hook. “Acquittal” means being found not guilty.)
  1. Clues contained in a definition or description:
Paul is a transcriptionist, a person who makes a written copy of a recorded message. (This sentence makes it obvious what a transcriptionist is by defining it.)
  1. Clues through association with other words in the sentence:
Brian is considered the most troublesome student ever to have walked the halls of Central High School. He has not passed a single class in his four years there and seldom makes it through an entire hour of class without falling asleep or getting sent to the office. His teachers consider him completely incorrigible. (Brian’s characteristics – troublesome, not passing class, sleeping, sent to the office – help you figure out that “incorrigible” means not manageable or unable to be corrected.)
  1. Clues which appear in a series:
The dulcimer, fiddle, and banjo are all popular among the Appalachian Mountain people. (You are probably familiar with a fiddle and a banjo – so you can figure out that a “dulcimer” is another stringed instrument.)
  1. Clues provided by the tone and setting:
The streets filled instantly with bellicose protesters, who pushed and shoved their way through the frantic bystanders. The scene was no longer peaceful and calm as the marchers had promised it would be. (Words like “pushed,” “shoved,” “frantic,” and “no longer peaceful” clue you in to what “bellicose” means.)
  1. Clues derived from cause and effect:
Since no one came to the first voluntary work session, attendance for the second one is mandatory for all the members. (Because nobody came to the first, you can figure out through cause and effect that they must attend the second – making it “mandatory.”)

Using Clues to Figure Out Meanings of Words

  1. Reread the sentence. Look for ideas and words that offer meaning clues, using the types on the other side of this handout..
  2. Read the two or three sentences that came before the one that contains the unfamiliar word(s). Look for clues to help you figure out meaning
  3. Read the two or three sentences that come after the one that contains the unfamiliar word(s). Look for clues to help you figure out meaning.

YOUR TASK:

As you read the article, text, passage, or story you have been assigned, complete the following steps:

  • Write down THREE sentences that contain unfamiliar words in the spaces below.
  • Underline the unfamiliar word in each sentence
  • Use context clues to figure out the meaning. Write your meaning in the appropriate space.
  • Identify which type of context clue you used to figure out the meaning. (Use the types from the other side of this page.)
  1. Sentence: ______

Meaning: ______

Type of context clue: ______

  1. Sentence: ______

Meaning: ______

Type of context clue: ______

  1. Sentence: ______

Meaning: ______

Type of context clue: ______