Lesson plan

Get Clued In to Context Clues

Context clues are a powerful tool for all readers! Use this lesson to teach your students how to utilize context clues to determine the meanings of unknown words.
EL Adjustments
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Students will be able to use context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
Keeping Up with Context CluesContext Clues Learning Check
  • Write the phrase Difficult WordsOn the board and circle it. Ask students to think about what they do when they encounter a difficult word during reading. Record answers around the phrase and circle them to create a concept map graphic organizer.
  • Provide feedback about student answers, pointing out the effective strategies all readers should use.
  • Read the learning objective aloud, and have the class choral read it. Explain that today’s lesson will teach about good context clues that support a reader in figuring out the definition of new words. Context cluesAre a skill that readers use to figure out the meanings of unknown words in a sentence. These are found within the same sentence as the unknown words, or they can be found in sentences that come before or after them.
(15 minutes)
  • Share that one of the most important skills a reader needs is figuring out the definitions of new words. Otherwise, we often lose interest and our ability to comprehend. Explain that authors do not always provide context clues, but they are extremely helpful when present.
  • Introduce some different examples of context clues that readers could look for when they come across an unfamiliar word. Explain the information a reader could use to determine the meaning of the vocabulary word for the following sentences:
    • Example 1 - The ElegantDress, which was fancy and beautiful, fit the queen well. (The author provides the meaning of the word in the text, or they explain it with detail.)
    • Example 2 - Our TraditionThat we do every 4th of July is to eat hot dogs and watch fireworks from the roof of the apartment building. (The author shares words that mean the same to help the reader figure out the meaning.)
    • Example 3 - When we move, my brother will AdaptWell and make a new routine, but it will be hard for me to change my routine. (The author uses words that are the opposite to show a contrast from the vocabulary word.)
    • Example 4 - I am UnableTo join in the recess activity because my ankle hurts. (The author uses words with prefixes, roots, and suffixes. If the reader knows the meaning of the word parts, they can figure out the meaning of the vocabulary word.)
    • Example 5 - My sister shows Courage. For example, she was not scared when she saw a snake in the yard. (The author gives examples that help to define and explain the vocabulary word.)
  • Display a copy of the Context Clues Learning Check worksheet. Show only the passage on #1, covering the answer choices. Read aloud the text and think aloud about what you think the word HarshMight mean based on the text. Jot down a possible definition in the margin of the worksheet. Underline the context clues that helped you come up with a definition, and reveal the answer choices. Choose the correct answer choice, and continue to explain how you knew. Share that the author offered an explanation of what HarshMeans. For example, the author stated that it is difficult for living creatures to survive. The text also stated that the cold and wind make it nearly impossible to survive. These explanations serve as context clues.
  • Guide students through the second example on the worksheet. Have them take out a whiteboard and whiteboard marker to write down what they think the word means. Follow the same think aloud process as modeled with example #1.
(15 minutes)
  • Put students into partnerships. Have them work together to complete the third and fourth examples on the Context Clues Learning Check worksheet.
  • Scramble partnerships, and have students check answers and explanations with each other about the word meanings and context clues used. Call on nonvolunteers to explain their answers.
  • Instruct the new partnerships to complete the bottom half of the worksheet. Go over the answers as a class. Call on nonvolunteers to supply an answer, and prompt them to explain the context clues they used to help them.
  • Introduce the Keeping Up with Context Clues worksheet by displaying it on the document camera. Read aloud the first few pages of WeslandiaBy Paul Fleischman or another book that lends itself to teaching context clues. Focus on words like OutcastAnd ShelterTo model how to fill out the graphic organizer. Invite learners to participate by looking up the words in the dictionary.
(20 minutes)
  • Distribute a copy of the Keeping Up with Context Clues worksheet to each student. Tell students that they will read their independent reading book for 20 minutes with the goal of recording at least three words on the graphic organizer.
  • Circulate while students read independently and check-in with learners about the words they have chosen for the graphic organizer.


  • Provide sentence frames for students as they discuss the definitions and context clues throughout the lesson. For example, "I think ____Means ____. The context clues are ____."
  • Give students a graphic organizer, such as a Frayer Model, to explore a vocabulary word from the lesson in depth.
  • Chunk the work for struggling students.

Enrichment:Give advanced students higher-levelled text with more vocabulary words. Then, have them write a new story that uses each of the vocabulary words. Challenge them to identify the different types of context clues in the text so that readers can figure out the meanings of the vocabulary words. Ask, "What type of information did the author provide that helped you figure out the defintions of the words?"

  • Allow students to use an online dictionary, such as wordsmyth.com or learnersdictionary.com.
(3 minutes)
  • Give each student an index card and have them choose one of the vocabulary words from any part of the lesson today. Instruct them to write a sentence using the vocabulary word, and remind them to use context clues in the sentence that help define the word.
(2 minutes)
  • Go over students’ sentences from the exit ticket. Display them for students to see, and call on nonvolunteers to point out the context clues that help the reader determine the word meaning.
  • Remind students that unfamiliar words can make reading difficult, but we gain comprehension when we are able to figure out the definition by using context clues.

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