EL Support Lesson
I Can Use Context Clues!
Students will be able to use context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.
- I can use context clues and inferences to determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
- I can use introductory phrases to discuss and write about inferences.
- Write a vocabulary word on the board, like "blizzard." Ask students to think about what strategies they could use to determine the meaning of a new word.
- Write a sentence frame on the board that reads, "When I see an unfamiliar word, I use ____ to figure out what it means."
- Remind students that an "unfamiliar word" is a word you don't know.
- Call on a few student volunteers to share their strategies using the sentence frame for support.
- Write the same word in a sentence such as "More than two feet of snow fell during the blizzard." Underline the focus word, "blizzard."
- Read the sentence aloud and ask students to think about other strategies they could use to determine the meaning of the word when they encounter it in a sentence or text. Call on student volunteers to share their strategies.
- Explain that today we are going to be talking about one specific strategy called "context clues."
Building academic language
- Display a blank copy of the Frayer Model worksheet. Write the key term context clues in the center of the model.
- Provide the definition and write it on the worksheet ("hints the author gives to help a reader understand a difficult or unusual word").
- In the section labeled "facts," write several facts about context clues (e.g., context clues can be found in the same sentence as a word or in sentences before or after the word; related words are contextual and contextualize).
- Hand out a Frayer Model to students and have them complete the two remaining sections with a partner. (Note: you may fill in the "definition" and "facts" sections before making copies for students.)
- Invite students to share examples and non-examples with the class. Record their answers on the displayed Frayer Model.
- Tell students that when we use context clues as a strategy, we must make inferences about what the unfamiliar word means. We can use the words we do know and prior knowledge to help us figure out the meaning of the unfamiliar word.
- Display the inference vocabulary card and review the definition. Emphasize that we must use both evidence (like context clues) and reasoning (like our own prior knowledge) to make inferences.
- Tell students that there are some introductory words and phrases they can use to explain inferences they've drawn from a sentence or text. On a piece of chart paper, write the title "Making Inferences" and write a list of sentence frames and stems focused on introductory phrases:
- "This makes me think..."
- "This means..."
- "When I read ____, I came to the conclusion that..."
- "I think ____ means ____ because..."
- "The author thinks..."
- Refer back to the sentence you used earlier in the lesson with the focus word "blizzard."
- Circle the word "snow" and explain that this is a clue that can help us figure out the meaning of the word "blizzard."
- Use the circled clue to make an inference that includes an introductory phrase from the list as you model your thinking out loud. For example, an inference could be, "This makes me think that a blizzard has something to do with snow."
- Circle the phrase "two feet" in the sentence and tell students that this is another clue.
- Use the clue to build on your inference and model a second introductory phrase (e.g., "When I read that there were more than two feet of snow, I came to the conclusion that a blizzard is something that happens when a lot of snow falls.").
- Ask students to turn and talk with a partner about what they think the word "blizzard" means. Encourage students to use the sentence frame that reads "I think ____ means ____ because..." during their discussion.
- Call on a few student volunteers to share their inferred meaning of the word "blizzard." Guide students to the definition (e.g., "snowstorm") if needed.
- Write a second sentence on the board that reads, "I will dunk this cookie in milk before I eat it." Underline the word "dunk" and do a choral read-aloud of the sentence.
- Tell students to read the sentence to themselves and look for context clues.
- Instruct students to talk with a partner and come up with a meaning for the word "dunk." Remind students to use the introductory phrases on the list during their discussion.
- Call on a few student volunteers to share their answers.
- Hand out the I Can Use Context Clues worksheet and review the directions at the top of the page.
- Instruct students to complete the first section of the worksheet independently.
- Read the directions aloud for section two and complete the first sentence as a model.
- Tell students to complete section two with a partner, then call on volunteers to share their answers.
- Read the directions for section three aloud and tell students to complete the paragraph frame independently.
- Invite several student volunteers to read their completed paragraphs aloud.
Additional EL adaptations
- Allow beginning ELs to use bilingual resources to define new words throughout the lesson.
- Strategically form partnerships and small groups so that beginning ELs are paired with someone who speaks the same home language (L1).
- Encourage advanced ELs to compose sentences and responses without sentence frames, or with shortened sentence stems.
- Allow advanced ELs to utilize a glossary, thesaurus, and dictionary for help with unfamiliar words.
- Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions. Ask advanced ELs to add on, rephrase, or clarify what their peers say in a class discussion.
- Have advanced ELs repeat instructions and key vocabulary, summarizing important information for the class.
Formative Assessment of Academic Language(5 minutes)
- Around the classroom, hang up several posters with a sentence written on each. Ensure that there are enough posters so that groups of three can be assigned to each poster. (If you have 30 students, you should have 10 posters.) Each sentence should be duplicated, so that there are two matching posters for each sentence. (If you have 10 posters, there would be a total of five different sentences.)
- Make sure that each posted sentence has an unfamiliar word that is underlined and sufficient context clues. For example, a sentence for "grate" could read, "Rain water flowed through the metal grate that covered the drain."
- Number each poster with a unique number and have students count off to the same number of posters you have. (If you have 10 posters, have students count off to 10.)
- While they are still in their seats, tell students to locate and read the sentence that corresponds with their assigned number. Remind students to think about the context clues and the meaning of the underlined word.
- After students have read their sentence, tell them to go stand by their poster and talk with their small group of three about the meaning of the underlined word. Remind students to use the introductory phrases on the list as they discuss the word with their group.
- Instruct students to circle the context clues and write the word meaning they come up with on their poster.
- Have each small group take their poster and meet with the other group that has the same sentence. Tell the combined groups of six to discuss the responses they wrote on their posters and, using the introductory phrases on the list, continue discussing the meaning of the underlined word.
- Remind students to write their names on their group poster. Collect the posters and read the student responses to gauge their understanding.
Review and closing(3 minutes)
- Invite students to think about how they use context clues in real-world situations (i.e., understanding a movie scene or overheard conversations).
- Discuss the types of context clues students may use in these various situations (i.e., body language, facial expressions, visual clues, tone of voice).
- Explain that context clues can help us figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word in text and in real-world situations, like conversations with friends.
- Remind students that when we use context clues to figure things out, we are also making inferences. Point out that the introductory phrases they practiced in today's lesson can be applied to other situations.