Activating Strategies for Teaching Context Clues

I came across a document on our schools common drive with tons of activating strategies for different reading skills. Most of you are probably familiar with activating strategies as a part of the Learning Focused model for writing lesson plans. I began really using it this year and I love it.

Activating Strategies are the "hook 'n link" component of the lesson. It should provide a "hook" and a "link" to prior knowledge for the students. The activating strategy must support the skill being taught in the lesson. For example, if the focus of the lesson is "main idea" then the activating strategy should "activate" thinking about main idea. It should align with both the essential question and the comprehension skill.

Today, I am going to focus on activating strategies for vocabulary and using context clues.

Your essential question might be: How can I use context clues to understand unknown words?

1. "What's the word?" - Read 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 the blank, the students supply the words that make sense. The students read their words to complete the sentence.

2. Cloze Activity - Choose a story to read to the students and omit some of the words. Write these on index cards and give to each of the students. As the teacher reads the story, stop at the missing words. The students have to listen and think of a word that makes sense and sounds right in the sentence.

3. Guess the Covered Word - Show students a content related paragraph with several important words covered up. As you read the paragraph, see if students can use the context clues to figure out the covered word. Guide students to use word length and clues in the sentence to figure out the words. If they are stumped, show them the onset, or beginning of the word until it is guessed. Once all the words have been guessed, call on a student to read it.

4. "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. You can use the same activity for antonyms, pronouns, homophones, etc..

Next week, I will post more activating strategies for other comprehension skills. I can't post everything at once otherwise I wouldn't have anything left to share with you guys!!

What activities do you use when teaching context clues?


  1. You look at your school's common drive? You write lesson plans? Where do you find the time?!

  2. I just came across this by accident, but THANK YOU! I am in school for Early Childhood, though I am in my practicum, I don't get to see many activities in the classroom....I am currently writing a vocabulary lesson plan, using contextual clues to figure out an unfamiliar word, and these activating strategies are great!

  3. Thank you, I am also writing a vocabulary lesson plan and was lost, but when I saw this I became excited. Keep up the good work.

  4. Love these ideas! I am a new teacher and i will definitely benefit from them!

  5. These are great!! I have been on the hunt for context clues lessons all morning!

    Thank you! :)

    Abby @ Third Grade Bookworm

  6. Thanks for posting these ideas!!! They have been a great help.

  7. WOW! You made my day!

  8. Love these ideas! Thank you!


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