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Using Context Clues

to understand the meaning

of unknown words
What do you

How could teaching your students using

clues to guess the meaning of unknown

Of course, any time you teach your

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

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
Word meaning

Students can understand the meaning of the new

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example: adverb

1. Margaret walked gingerly on her sprained

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