Shop Now Login/Register View Quote View Cart
1.800.221.5175
Mathematics
Core Math
Sadlier Math Grades K–6 View Details | Buy Now
Progress in Mathematics Grades K–6 View Details | Buy Now
Progress in Mathematics Grades 7–8+ View Details | Buy Now
Supplemental
Progress Mathematics Grades K–8 View Details | Buy Now
New Jersey Progress Mathematics Grades K–8 Buy Now
New York Progress Mathematics Grades K–8 Buy Now
Common Core Progress Mathematics Grades K–8 Buy Now
Let's Target Math Problem Solving Grades 1–8 View Details | Buy Now
Let's Target Real-World Math Word Problems Grades 1–8 View Details | Buy Now
Critical Thinking for Active Math Minds Grades 3–6 View Details | Buy Now
Preparing for Standards-Based Assessments Grades 7–8 View Details | Buy Now
Vocabulary
Vocabulary Workshop Enriched Edition Grades 1–5 View Details | Buy Now
Vocabulary Workshop Achieve Grades 6–12+ View Details | Buy Now
Vocabulary Workshop Achieve Interactive Edition Grades 6–12+ View Details | Buy Now
Vocabulary Workshop Enriched Edition Grades 6–12+ View Details | Buy Now
Vocabulary Workshop Interactive Edition Grades 2–12+ View Details | Buy Now
Vocabulary for Success Grades 6–10 View Details | Buy Now
Let's Target Vocabulary Acquisition Grades 1–8 View Details | Buy Now
Let's Target Vocabulary and Usage Grades 1–8 View Details | Buy Now
Building an Enriched Vocabulary Grades 9–12 View Details | Buy Now
English Language Arts
Progress English Language Arts Grades K-8 View Details | Buy Now
New Jersey Progress English Language Arts Grades K–8 Buy Now
New York Progress English Language Arts Grades K–8 Buy Now
Common Core Progress English Language Arts Grades K–8 Buy Now
Grammar & Writing
Grammar Workshop, Tools for Writing Grades 3–5 View Details | Buy Now
Grammar for Writing Grades 6–12 View Details | Buy Now
Let's Target Grammar Grades 1–8 View Details | Buy Now
Writing Workshop Grades 6–12 Buy Now
Writing a Research Paper Grades 6–12 Buy Now
Grammar & Writing for Standardized Tests Grades 9–12 Buy Now
Reading
From Phonics to Reading Grades K–3 View Details | Buy Now
Close Reading of Complex Texts Grades 3–8 View Details | Buy Now
Close Reading of Complex Texts Interactive Edition Grades 3–8 View Details | Buy Now
Sadlier Phonics Grades K–3 View Details | Buy Now
Let's Target Comprehension Grades 1–8 View Details | Buy Now

Sadlier's
English Language Arts Blog

The home of Vocab Gal and other educational experts K–12 resources

March 19, 2019 VG Teaching Resources Vocab & ELA Res, VG Teaching Strategies Test-taking, Vocab Gal, ELA K-5, ELA 6-8, ELA Resources - Assessment, ELA Resources - Activities, ELA PD - Assessment, ELA Resources - Tip Sheets, ELA 9-12, ELA PD - Leadership, ELA PD - Vocabulary, ELA Focus - Writing with Vocabulary, ELA Focus - Vocabulary

How Word Parts and Context Clues Strategies Can Help Students Become Better Test Takers

So often, teachers tell students to figure out what a word means based on its word parts or on surrounding context clues, but rarely know how to elaborate on that idea and teach concrete strategies to students. In this article, we'll explore strategies for breaking down word parts that can be easily understood by students. More importantly, these strategies to figure out what a word means will help students increase vocabulary and become better test takers. A total win! Plus, I've compiled free printable resources that you can download today and share with students. 

Download a FREE Context Clues and Word Part Strategies Kit now!

When students can effectively use context clues strategies to navigate a text, it leads them to academic success. With this skill students continue to increase their vocabulary, activate prior knowledge, and improve reading comprehension and fluency.

What Is A Context Clue In Reading?

The context of a word is the printed text of which that word is part. When reading a text, the context is often understood from the words, sentences, and ideas that come before and after a word.

Readers might find a clue in the immediate or adjoining sentence or phrase in which the word appears; in the topic or subject matter of the passage; or in the physical features of a page itself (i.e., images, graphs, captions, and so on).

Essentially, context clues are bits of information in a text that, when combined with prior knowledge, can help the reader determine the meaning of an unknown word.

The Importance Of Teaching Context Clues Strategies

When students can effectively use context clues strategies to navigate a text, it leads them to academic success. With this skill students continue to increase their vocabulary, activate prior knowledge, and improve reading comprehension and fluency.

Being able to successfully interpret context clues also makes students better test takers. Coming across unfamiliar vocabulary on a standardized test not only confuses students, but also can be very discouraging. If students don’t feel confident about what they’re being asked, they won’t be confident when choosing an answer.

3 Ways Students Can Figure Out The Meaning Of Words

Strategy 1: Define Context Clue Types

There are four common types of context clues that authors use when writing a text. They include:

  1. Definition/Explanation Clues - The word’s meaning is explained in the sentence.

Example: A hippogriff is a mythical creature what has the front half of an eagle and the hind half of a horse.

  1. Restatement/Synonym Clues - A word or phrase is used in the sentence that has similar meaning.

 Example: Santa Claus was so portly that his doctor declared him overweight.

  1. Contrast/Antonym Clues - The word’s meaning is clarified by a word or phrase with opposite meaning.

 Example: The gorilla is often gentle, but it can also be ferocious.

  1. Inference/General Context - Clues in the sentence imply but do not directly state the meaning of the word.

Example: Constellations, like the famous group of stars named Orion, can be seen throughout the world.

By labeling the context clues according to their specific type, rather than simply saying they are “clues,” teachers can help students who are confused by generalities to more easily look for restatements, contrasts, inferences, and so on.

The Sadlier Context Clue handout that provides handy tips for finding the three basic types of context clues is especially helpful in developing these skills. When I explain that students should look for restatement clues, contrast clues, and inference clues, we can then re-examine passages, underline key words and phrases, and discuss what types of clues they are.

By labeling the context clues according to their specific type, rather than simply saying they are “clues,” teachers can help students who are confused by generalities to more easily look for restatements, contrasts, inferences, and so on.

Vocabulary-Lesson

Strategy 2: Examine Greek and Latin Roots

Another way that students can find the meaning of unknown words is by examining the word parts that make up many English words. These word parts are prefixes, suffixes, and roots, or bases. Download a list of common prefixes. Knowing the meaning of a prefix can help students determine the meaning of a word in which the prefix appears.

Another way that students can find the meaning of unknown words is by examining the word parts that make up many English words. These word parts are prefixes, suffixes, and roots, or bases. Download a list of common prefixes. Knowing the meaning of a prefix can help students determine the meaning of a word in which the prefix appears.

Vocabulary-Lesson

Strategy 3: Break the Word Down

The last strategy/handout available for download comes from the Core Literacy Blog. This simple handout focuses more on breaking down individual words and puzzling out their meanings. Here's an example Erin gave using the word submersible:

STEP 1: Break the word into smaller parts. Look for the parts of the word you know.

Submersible → sub mersible

What does the word sub make you think of?

  • Subway
  • Submarine

You can investigate even further by asking, “Do subways and submarines have anything in common?”

  • Both are used for transportation and traveling from one point to another
  • Both are underground

STEP 2: Look for the context clues. What do they tell you?

"Explorer, the submersible watercraft, sank deeper into the ocean.”

From the passage clues we know that:

  • Submersible is describing a feature of the watercraft.
  • The watercraft can travel deep into the ocean.

STEP 3: Use your background knowledge.

I know a sub or submarine travels underwater.

The passage says, "...sank deeper into the ocean."

You can conclude that submersible means a vessel or vehicle that is capable of traveling and operating underwater.

This example is a great resource to share with students as a handout or you can hang up the poster on the classroom wall. Once students have reviewed this strategy, assign them words to break down themselves using these three steps.

This example is a great resource to share with students as a handout or you can hang up the poster on the classroom wall. Once students have reviewed this strategy, assign them words to break down themselves using these three steps.

Vocabulary-Lesson

In Summary

By using these handouts together, students can see that solving word mysteries can be a fun challenge, rather than an overwhelming task. Using these strategies will bring students success when they encounter new words on tests.

Download the Context Clues and Word Parts Strategies Kit now!