Using “Context Clues” to Determine Word Meaning

Using "Context Clues" to Determine Word Meaning (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comWhen faced with an unfamiliar word, students need to consider the context of the word in order to locate clues for predicting the meaning.  Teachers often talk about using “context clues” to determine meaning, but there is very little published on what the strategies might be to engage this process.  Below are some suggestions for explicit instruction on determining the meaning of an unknown word.

Type of Word: Is the word used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.?

  • Articles often preceded nouns.
  • Adjectives are typically before or after a noun, or after a form of “to be”
  • Nouns are often found after prepositions
  • Regular verbs have predictable endings
  • Subject pronouns often precede verbs
  • Adverbs are often found in front of or after verbs

Semantic Relationship: Other words in the sentence may provide clues to the meaning of a word.

  • The noun in a sentence may provide a clue to the meaning of the verb. For example: The architect designs buildings.
  • The verb in a sentence may provide a clue to the meaning of a noun. For example: The architect designs buildings.
  • Nouns and verbs may provide clues to the meaning of another word in a sentence. For example: The architect designed the building using a state-of-the-art computer program.
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