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Vocabulary - Contextual Clues

Vocabulary - Contextual Clues


Context Clues are hints that the author gives to help define a difficult or unusual word. The clue may appear within the same sentence as the word to which it refers, or it may follow in a preceding sentence. Because most of your vocabulary is gained through reading, it is important that you be able to recognize and take advantage of context clues. The objective of this lesson is to teach students to use this information to guess the meaning of a word without the aid of a dictionary.


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Contextual Clues

Performance Objectives:

Given a nonsense word, students will be able to use sentence context to correctly
identify its meaning 80% of the time.

Students will be given a worksheet with five nonsense words written on them.
Using the context clues found in the sentence, students will decide what the
imaginary word means. The teacher will document which students achieved 80%
mastery (or 4 out of 5 word meanings correctly identified).

Advanced Preparation by Teacher:

A group of cards with the following pictures on them: a keyboard, computer
mouse, a printer, gas can, steering wheel, four wheels, key, computer, car.
A group of cards with the words tail, furry, paws, barks, and dog) written on
A chart with 5 rows and a writing utensil to fill in the rows of the chart.
Copies of the handout “Context Clues” for students to complete for assessment.


1. Show students a group of prepared group of familiar pictures of a keyboard, a
[computer] mouse, and a printer and ask students “what object do these
picture help make?” (a computer).

Bloom – Remembering
Gardner – Verbal-Linguistic, Visual-Spatial

2. Give students a harder set of pictures (a gas can, a steering wheel, four
wheels, and a key) and ask them to identify the object again (a car/truck).
Bloom – Remembering
Gardner – Verbal-Linguistic, Visual-Spatial

3. Ask students “How did you solve these problems?” “Which pictures helped
you best to know what the object was?”
Bloom – Understanding, Applying, Analyzing
Gardner – Verbal-Linguistic, Intrapersonal

4. This time show students four words that together form an object (tail, furry,
paws, barks) and ask students to tell their neighbor what they think the object
is (dog).

a. Ask students what the object was and which clues they used to help
them figure out what the object was.
Bloom – Remembering, Understanding, Applying
Gardner – Verbal-Linguistic, Interpersonal
Step-by-Step Plan:

1. Explain to students that context clues are pieces of information in the words
or sentences or illustrations that help supply the meaning of the word. Tell
students that what they just did, using the pictures or other words, helped them
figure out the words computer, car, and dog even though they didn’t know
what the words were.

2. Show students the chart and explain each of the following steps, writing each
step on the chart as you go:
a. “Don’t panic.” Don’t let a new word frighten you.
b. “Context.” The words around it will probably help you figure out what
it means.
c. “Pictures?” See if there are pictures that might help you understand it.
d. “Guess it!” Guess the word.
e. “Were you right?” Does the word make sense in your story or
sentence? If it doesn’t make sense look at the clues (your words and
pictures) again. Did you miss something? Read the sentences carefully
to help you figure out the meaning of the word again.
Bloom – Remembering, Understanding
Gardner – Verbal-Linguistic, Visual-Spatial, Logical-Mathematical

3. Give each student a copy “Context Clue”

4. Ask students: “What does the word [torix] mean?”
Bloom – Remembering
Gardner – Verbal-Linguistic, Intrapersonal

5. Give students time to read through the first paragraph or read it aloud to them.

6. Discuss what the word torix means.
Bloom – Remembering
Gardner – Verbal-Linguistic, Interpersonal

7. Have students reread the paragraph and ask students to share with the entire
class “Which pieces of information were most helpful in determining the
meaning of the word torix?”
Bloom – Remembering, Understanding, Evaluate
Gardner – Verbal-Linguistic, Interpersonal

8. Have students complete the rest of the worksheet independently.

9. Check students’ answers for understanding.
1. Review the steps for the context clues strategy.
2. Tell students that they can use this strategy anytime they read.


For one student who second language is English, word choices will be provided for him/her when
attempting to complete the worksheet.
For student who is gifted, student will come up with their own made up word along with clues or sentences
to accompany that word. Gifted students will exchange clues with each other (or the teacher) and solve. No
pictures will be provided for the student on the worksheet.
Did I leave enough time for the Step-By-Step Part?
Do I need to reword my questions? (Were the questions to hard? Or Do I need to ask more questions?)
Did students understand what I was asking them to do?