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Using Context Clues

to understand the meaning


of unknown words
What do you
think?

How could teaching your students using


context
clues to guess the meaning of unknown
words
Learner
Autonomy

Of course, any time you teach your


students skills or strategies to understand
English on their own, you’re developing
learner autonomy
Understand in
English

By teaching students how to look at the clues in


the text itself, they’re staying longer “inside” of
the context of English
They’re learning how to understand the word in
English without always having to translate
Translating into the students’ native language is
not always the most effective method for
understanding an unknown word in the target
language
Word meaning

Students can understand the meaning of the new


word
If the student does use a dictionary, it will help to
narrow their search for the correct definition
Many words in English have multiple meanings;
by looking at the word’s meaning in context,
students will have a better chance of getting the
correct understanding
Reading Efficiency

By developing reading strategies such as these,


the student becomes a more efficient reader.
He/she learns…
They don’t have to look up every unknown word
in the dictionary
Sometimes you can understand the word’s
meaning very well by clues in the text
By first briefly trying to understand the
unknown word in the context and then checking
for its translation or meaning can help narrow
the search and save time
Strategy # 1
Use surrounding words for clues

Example:
1. The cars waited for the pedestrian to walk across
the street.
Strategy # 1 (con’t)
Use surrounding words for clues

Example: =
1. He had never ridden a horse before and was
a novice.
Strategy # 2
Use the word’s part of speech (and
surrounding words)

Example: verb

1. The noisy kids were told to vacate the movie


theatre.
Strategy # 2 (con’t)
Use the word’s part of speech (and
surrounding words)

verb
Example:
1. He hadn’t eaten lunch and was famished by
dinner time.
Strategy # 3
Look at the visual clues

Example:
1. Amani pays the clerk at the cash register for her
new shoes.
Strategy # 3 (con’t)
Look at the visual clues

Example:
1. Josi takes the escalator to the second floor.
Strategy # 4
Look at the morphology of the word; look at
the word itself for clues; the prefixes, suffixes,
or even the base word may help you with the
new word’s meaning

Probably
Example: adverb

1. Margaret walked gingerly on her sprained


knee.
Strategy # 4 (con’t)
By having your students study common Latin and
Greek morphemes, they can widen their potential
vocabulary.
Latin and Greek morphemes
Example:
If you know the Greek prefix “mono” means
one…
and logue means speech…
then you’ll know what I mean when I say I’ve
been doing a