EL Support Lesson

Using Sentence Level Context to Decode Text

Use this lesson to reinforce using sentence level context clues to decode challenging words in a nonfiction text. This can be used as a stand alone activity or a support the Using Context Clues to Understand Word Meanings lesson.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Using Context Clues to Understand Word Meanings lesson plan.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Using Context Clues to Understand Word Meanings lesson plan.

Students will be able to determine the meaning of words and phrases in grade appropriate text.


Students will be able to read and understand unknown words with sentence level context using sentence frames.

(4 minutes)
  • Ask students, "When you come to a tricky word in a book you are reading, what do you do?"
  • Allow a few students to share their answers while you record their answers on the whiteboard.
  • Explain that context clues are clues in the text that can give readers hints about the meaning and structure of a new word, as well as how it can be used in a sentence. Explain to students that today they will be looking at the words and phrases before and after a tricky word to figure out the meaning of the word.
  • Write and read the following language objective in student-friendly language on the board and ask the students to choral chant the language objective back to you:
    • I can read grade level text with unknown words by using sentence level context and sentence frames for support.
(5 minutes)
  • Refer to the Vocabulary Cards worksheet and write the following words on the whiteboard: magnificent, approach, weigh.
  • Pass out three sticky notes to each student and write the following vocabulary rating scale on the whiteboard:
    • 3–I can use the word in a sentence.
    • 2–I have heard the word before.
    • 1–I'm not sure what the word means.
  • Explain that students will record a rating for each vocabulary word and place their rating under the corresponding vocabulary word on the whiteboard. Model an example to support student understanding.
  • Allow students a few minutes to write and record their answers. Review student answers as a whole group, tallying how many students responded with a 1, 2, or 3 under each vocabulary word.
(8 minutes)
  • Split students into pairs and pass out highlighters, coloring materials, and copies of the Magnificent Bears! worksheet to each student.
  • Project the Magnificent Bears! worksheet on the whiteboard.
  • Explain to students that they will read sentences about giant panda bears that contain the vocabulary words they just saw. Encourage the students to think about their knowledge of the vocabulary words prior to reading the sentences. Explain that each sentence contains a clue that should help them understand the meaning of each vocabulary word.
  • Call on a student volunteer to read the directions aloud and clarify any confusion.
  • Model how to complete number one and have students complete numbers two and three together.
(10 minutes)
  • Allow students to share out answers from the sentence level activity. Explain that when we really understand a vocabulary word, we can use it in a sentence that we create ourselves! Direct the students' attention to the next page of the Magnificent Bears! worksheet.
  • Ask students to go back to their seats, and explain that they will create new sentences and illustrations to connect to each vocabulary word. Model creating a sentence and illustration using one of the vocabulary words.
  • Remind students that a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period.
  • Explain that when students are finished, they should read aloud each sentence to a neighbor.


  • Provide students with the Vocabulary Cards worksheet prior to the lesson.
  • Define vocabulary words in students' home language (L1).
  • Allow students to work in a small, teacher-led group and read text aloud to teacher.
  • Pair students with a sympathetic non-EL student during the discourse level activity.


  • Have students complete numbers two and three independently during the discourse level activity, and encourage them to read aloud and check their answers with a neighbor after completing.
  • Encourage students to record the paragraph frame in their reading log or journal prior to reading it aloud to a partner.
(8 minutes)
  • Collect student worksheets to use as a formative assessment to guide future instruction on using sentence level context to decode text.
  • Write the following paragraph frame on the board and model how to finish it, using one of the vocabulary words:
    • A new word I learned today was ____. I can use ____ in the following sentence: ____. When I come to a tricky word in a book, I can use ____ to help me figure it out.
  • Ask students to do a think-pair-share with an elbow partner, finishing the paragraph frame orally.
(5 minutes)
  • Use another section of the whiteboard to record another copy of the vocabulary rating scale.
    • 3–I can use the word in a sentence.
    • 2–I have heard the word before.
    • 1–I'm not sure what the word means.
  • Write the following header above the previous vocabulary rating scale: Before Using Context Clues
  • Write the following header above the new vocabulary rating scale: After Using Context Clues
  • Pass out three sticky notes to each student and have them record their answers and tally their responses. Compare responses before and after using context clues. Reinforce the importance of understanding tricky vocabulary words when reading a nonfiction text.

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