How Context Clues Can Help Students Understand Word Meanings

When students come across new words and do not know their meaning, it often helps to look at what comes before and after that word. Along with this, there are other types of context clues that can help understand what the word means and build vocabulary.

Learn what the types of context clues are and how they can be incorporated in classrooms to help students learn below. 

The Six Types of Context Clues

The six types of context clues are with their examples are listed below:

1. Root Word and Affix: People who are terrified of spiders have arachnophobia.

2. Example-Illustration: Frogs, toads, and some birds are predators that hunt and eat spiders. 

3. Definition: Some spiders spin silk with tiny organs called spinnerets. 

4. Contrast: Unlike spiders, scorpions do not lay eggs and give birth to young scorpions. 

5. Logic: Lizards feed on spiders, so spiders hide from them. 

6. Grammar: Spiders molt five to ten times in their lifetime. 

Incorporating Context Clues in Classrooms

While researchers continue to discover if word clues are effective, many teachers incorporate this technique in their classrooms. They feel that combining different word clues helps students get an idea about what new words mean. 

To further help the students to understand the meanings of the new words, teachers also prompt them to answer questions like: what are the surrounding words? What do the surrounding words suggest? What could the word mean in this context? 

Ways to Incorporate Word Clues

Here is a sample lesson plan that could help teachers understand how to incorporate context clues before, during, and after reading a text in class. 

Before reading

  • Go over context clues so that students revise the skill
  • Communicate the expectation from the lesson, and build on past lessons using context clues. 
  • Give a model about how to find context clues. 

During Reading

  • Display the passage you’re reading on the whiteboard. 
  • Ask all students to read the passage in pairs or groups.
  • Then, ask different students to come up and underline unfamiliar words and then discuss them together. 
  • Use context clues to understand new vocabulary together. 
  • Confirm meanings from online dictionaries or thesaurus. 

After Reading

  • Ask students to go over the process once again to refresh their memories.
  • Ask students to group up and use context clues to understand the meanings of two or more new words. 
  • An excellent way to remind students about using context clues the next time they come across new words is to post the list of context clues on the board. 

Concluding Thoughts

There is no one way of teaching everything to students. Therefore, teachers find numerous strategies and approaches to teaching children. Context clues help teach students the meanings of new words without them feeling overwhelmed.

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