Monday, February 8, 2010

Context Clues

One of the most important skills you can teach your child in reading is how to use clues in the text to help them figure out unknown words.

This will come up their entire's tied to problem solving skills, so if they are good at getting context clues, they will be bolstering their problem solving abilities too.

Take my reading with Ben today. We had just purchased Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems, and he was DYING to read it -- it has the word naked in it -- you know 7 year old boys.

So he was reading along and came to a portion where the mole rat goes to look at a "portrait" of the Grand-pah mole rat. He said the word perfectly and just kept going. I let him go, and on the very next page, one sentence after the word "portrait" was the word "picture" in reference to what the moles were looking at. I stopped him and asked what a portrait was. He said he didn't exactly know, but because it said picture and the illustration was showing a big painting of the Grand-pah that he thought it was a picture of someone.

HOORAY. He used his context clues.

1. He looked at the illustrations/information on the page in pictures or graphics.
2. He read on a sentence or two to see if there were more clues.

Usually, authors will give clue words around sentences where there is a higher vocabulary word included. There is support. Kids just need to recognize when they don't know a word, stop their minds for a moment, and then read on a couple sentences to see if there is a clue "replacement" word or a description of something that would help them understand the word they didn't know.

Now hold on. Sounds simple. Have kids look for clues.


This is a skill you have to model over and over again.

I love the Mark Teague books Dear Mrs. La Rue for context clue work, especially for third - sixth grade. The vocabulary in there will get them -- they aren't simplistic.

Look through the books your child is reading. Think like them. Read before they do, and earmark in your mind words they may stumble on, and find those clues. Then, as you are reading with them, you will feel prepared to help them with this type of work.

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