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Teaching Context Clues

I think that, right along with teaching inference, teaching context clues is one of the most crucially important skills that we teach as educators.  It is also one of the more tricky skills that students are faced with, so I have always made it a point to have a lot of different ways to teach and practice context clues.    We have been working on it in class lately, and it's the main focus for us this quarter.

Upper elementary anchor charts, reference books, practice activities, projects, and task cards for teaching context clues.

Context Clues Anchor Charts

We started by discussing the different types of context clues that we often find.  We made an anchor chart to describe each of those types.  The spaces below the definitions are left for students to place their own examples using sticky notes.

anchor chart for teaching context clues

Then, we talked about what to do if there weren't obviously any of those clues in the sentence or surrounding sentences.  We made another anchor chart.

anchor chart for teaching context clues

Teaching Context Clues with Flipbooks

Are you looking to take teaching context clues to the next level? This context clues flipbook is THE resource you need. All five passages are related to the same, high-interest informational topic… ANCIENT EGYPT!  With each passage, readers will learn about a different, related subtopic.

On the right-hand side of each section, there is a carefully crafted informational text passage. Within each part of the story, there is a specific reading comprehension skill reviewed that is directly related to context clues. 

On the left side of each section of the flipbook, students complete several skill-related tasks. For example, there is one section that focuses on finding synonyms and meaning susing context clues, one that focuses on drawing inferences, etc. There is also a comprehension quick check question for each section of the story.

All five parts focus on the same high-interest topic, ancient Egypt! Students should complete the entire resource over the course of several days. The final task asks them to put all of their reading skills together to write a summary of the information.  

Practice Activities

Next we used these fun and easy to prepare context clues activities for more practice. No prep required, just print them out and use them as a literacy center or engaging lesson that aligns to several Common Core Standards. This resource includes 10 high-interest context clues reading activities that are sure to keep your students engaged!

We also used a passage from the book A Dog's Life to tap in to some authentic literature.  This activity showed the students that you can, indeed, use context clues in real books, not just in the sentences their teachers show them.  (You can print a copy of the document here)  This is a great small group lesson. Here's an example of how I show them to use context clues in the passage

I recently created a new context clues project to help my students work on mastering their context clues skills!  I am so excited about this project because it gives students so many ways to look at context clues and is FUN!  They are basically going on a 7-stop trip around the world.  At each country they visit, they have some sort of conundrum that they must solve using their context clues.  At each stop along the way, they collect a little token, and when they've collected all of their tokens and glued them on to their postcard recording sheet, they are done!  It is the perfect way to round out our study!

The travel theme in this project also lends itself to a mini room transformation. Susan Ledford Guilfoyle shared, “Today my 4th graders were world travelers.   We traveled to Peru, and visited Machu Picchu, then Germany were we toured the Brandenburg Gate.  We then flew to Kenya and went on Safari, next was New Zeland and finally Ireland where we explored The Giant's Causeway before flying back to America.  Students had to complete activities at each stop that challenged their ability to use context clues to figure out word meanings within a text, such as postcards to friends, hotel reviews, safari brochures and tourists reviews of sights.  The kids worked hard loved flying in our airplane.”

upper elementary context clues project
upper elementary context clues project

Task Cards

Throughout the unit, we also practiced with task cards.  This differentiated context clues task card bundle includes five sets of task cards to use throughout your unit. These digital and printable task cards are perfect for use in whole group lessons, small group reteaching or enrichment, centers, early finisher work, etc.

The kids enjoyed the task cards so much, I decided to create fall context clues task cards so that we can continue to reinforce this skill.

If your students love seasonal themes as much as mine do, you should also consider this seasonal context clues activity pack for context clues review all year long! No prep required, just print them out and use the context clues activities as literacy centers, or break them up into several engaging reading lessons.

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