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Context Clues to Help Decode


ELA: Reading Elementary School Strategy


Flexible Thinking Verbal Reasoning Verbal Memory Abstract Reasoning Visual Memory

Context Clues to Help Decode

If your elementary student struggles or just skips unfamiliar words while reading independently

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Students will use context clues, in addition to phonics strategies, when figuring out unfamiliar words in reading.
  2. Instruction and Practice: Introduce strategies (on the next slide) that students can apply when they come across tricky words in reading. Practice using the strategies together during read alouds in class. Create a handout for students as a reminder and self-awareness during reading of strategies they can use.

Use Context Clues To Help Decode

  1. Skip and return: Read past the unknown word to the end of the sentence or paragraph while thinking about what would make sense. Substitute a sound like, "Mm" so you can keep the reading flow. Then go back to the beginning and try to read the word with more context.
  2. Substitute: Pick a word that could make sense and re-read the sentence with the substitute word. If the substituted word does not make sense in context try a new word. (Students learn to figure out the general meaning of the unknown word, even if they are having difficulty decoding it.)
  3. What kind of word should go here: For example, if a word comes before a noun, it is likely a describing word (adjective). If it comes right after the noun and you are thinking it's an action, you are looking for a verb. (Thinking about what type of word makes sense can help students gain more information about the word they are attempting to understand.)

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Oftentimes, it is a combination of using context clues, along with phonics strategies, that will lead the student to figure out any unknown words. In addition to helping with decoding, this exercise will develop the student's overall verbal reasoning and recall of known vocabulary. Even if a student is reading with an electronic text, encourage him or her to try to come up with a meaning based on context before looking up the definition to exercise those verbal reasoning skills and increase the likelihood of remembering the new word later.