Context Clue Activities

As I promised Joan earlier this week? or last week? I am sharing some ELA strategies. Context clues are important in determining the meaning of words you don't know in a text and a very useful strategy for students to use when they are reading independently. Here are some activities you can use:

1. "What's the word?" - The teacher reads a story with omitted words. These omitted words are placed on index cards and given to the students. While the teacher is reading the story, the students focus on the comprehension of the story. When the teacher stops at a blank, the students supply the words that make sense. The students read their words to complete the sentence.

2. "I Have, You Have" Synonym game - The teacher will write the synonyms on cards. For example, the cards will start with something like, “I need to find some synonyms. Who has a synonym for big?” The next card will read, “I have large. Who has a synonym for small?” Next card, “I have tiny” and the game continues. (Same activity can be used for pronouns.)

3. "Be a Detective" - Give students a few sentences with underlined vocabulary words you want them to figure out. Make sure the sentences have clues in the sentence that hint at the meaning of the word. Have the students read the sentence with a partner or their group. Tell them they need to be detectives to find and highlight the clues/words/phrases in the sentences that help them figure out the meaning of each underlined word. I often use this activity when introducing a new set of vocabulary words. You may even want to let them use little magnifying glasses just to make it fun!
I am going to try to share some activities for each reading skill at least once a week. What activities do you use to teach context clues?


  1. Thank you! I really like the first one. With 6th graders I could use magazine articles from National Geographic that have much harder words than they have in their reading series. This could help me build a word wall for my English classroom. =)

  2. I especially like the detective one! Thanks for sharing these great strategies!

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  4. I like all three ideas. Another idea is called "Far and Away" where students must look further than the proximal sentence to find clues for the unknown word. They must look in preceding sentences and in sentences not yet read.
    The student who can find a meaningful clue that is the furthest away from the unknown word wins.
    Let students work in groups of 2-4.

    If applicable, morphemic clues are circled inside the unknown word(affixes, base words, or possibly roots). This is a bonus point.

  5. These are great ideas that can work for primary and secondary!!

  6. Hi! Can you explain the first activity? I really want to use it with my class. What kind of story did you use? How did you decide which words to write on the notecards?


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