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Vocabulary Builder

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Vocabulary Workshop


Using context clues
Context clues are hints about the meaning of an unknown word that are provided in the words, phrases, and sentences that surround the word. Context clues include definitions, restatements, examples, or descriptions. Because students learn most word meanings indirectly, or from context, it is important that they learn to use context clues effectively.

Not all contexts are helpful, however. Some contexts give little information about a word's meaning. An example of an unhelpful context is the sentence, "We heard the back door open, and then recognized the buoyant footsteps of Uncle Larry." A number of possible meanings of buoyant could fit this context, including heavy, lively, noisy, familiar, dragging, plodding, and so on. Instruction in using context clues as a word-learning strategy should include the idea that some contexts are more helpful than others.

Workshop example - Using context clues
In a third-grade class, the teacher models how to use context clues to determine word meanings as follows:

Student (reading the text): When the cat pounced on the dog, the dog jumped up, yelping, and knocked over a lamp, which crashed to the floor. The animals ran past Tonia, tripping her. She fell to the floor and began sobbing. Tonia's brother Felix yelled at the animals to stop. As the noise and confusion mounted, Mother hollered upstairs, "What's all that commotion?"

Teacher: The context of the paragraph helps us determine what commotion means. There's yelping and crashing, sobbing, and yelling. And then the last sentence says, "as the noise and confusion mounted." The author's use of the words noise and confusion gives us a very strong clue as to what commotion means. In fact, the author is really giving us a definition there, because commotion means something that's noisy and confusing-a disturbance. Mother was right; there was definitely a commotion!

See also:






Reading  |  Improve Vocabulary  |  Reading Teacher  |  SAT Vocabulary

Vocabulary Workshop  |   Reading Program  |   Vocabulary Lesson  |   Reading Tutor

Reading Comprehension  |  Vocabulary Test  |  The Phonics Game





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