One of the best ways to see if your students have mastered a reading skill is to see if they can apply it in their writing. I love doing this with themes (read more about how I teach theme and use a working backward activity by clicking here) and text structure. It also works perfectly with context clues. This post will share a simple (but rigorous) context clues activity to get your students showing what they know about context clues by writing their own unique sentences.
About the Free Context Clues Activity
For this activity, the students will choose a word card. The card will have a complex word with a simple-to-read definition and the part of speech that matches the definition.
After reading the word, its definition, and part of speech, the students will use the word in a unique sentence (or paragraph). But, the catch is that they must include context clues to help a reader who may not know the meaning understand the word.
Depending on your students and their level of mastery, you can have them include any type of clues or you can challenge them to use a variety of different types of context clues (definition clue, synonym clue, antonym clue, example clue, or inference clue.)
For the words, I tried to include words that would most likely not be in a typical 4th or 5th grade student’s known vocabulary yet, but that also had clear definitions that were easy for the students to understand. The part of speech is also included to help the students use the word correctly.
Here are the exact student directions:
- Select a word.
- Read the provided definition of the word.
- Write the word in a unique sentence with context clues to help the reader determine the meaning. (There is also an option for the students to write a paragraph using the word.)
- Repeat with a new word.
Here are some of the words included:
- Nefarious (adjective): wicked, villainous
- Superannuated (adjective): too old to function
- Somnambulist (noun): sleepwalker
- Pandemonium (noun): chaos
- Supine (adjective): lying on the back, lying face upward
- Lateritious (adjective): brick-red color
- Ethereal (adjective): extremely delicate
- Septuagenarian (noun): person in their 70s
- Ebullient (adjective): liveliness, enthusiasm
- Hircus (noun): armpit odor
- Disambiguate (verb): to explain
Use all of the words included or pick and choose the ones that work best for your students.
Here are some ideas for using this context clues activity in your classroom:
1. Reading Center or Literacy Station – You can model this with a couple of words and then have the students complete the activity in a center. You could assign them a specific number of words to complete. You could even have them switch their papers with partners. They could read each other sentences and use the clues to determine the meaning of the words.
2. Whole Group Activity – There are 36 words included, so you easily do this as a whole-group activity. Model how to do it with a couple of words, and then assign the students each a word. They could trade words with a partner or someone at their group until they have completed a few different words. You could then have them trade papers with partners at other groups to practice defining each other’s words.
3. Around the Room – For this type of activity, tape the word cards around the room. After modeling how to complete the activity, have the students go around the room to complete the activity. Click here to read a detailed blog post about this review activity.
Tips for Using this Context Clues Activity
- For added accountability, you could have the students underline the context clues that they included. If you are challenging them to use a variety of types of context clues, have them also record the type of context clues they provided.
- I recommend using this specific context clue activity after your students have had several days of instruction.
- For added engagement, allow the students to switch papers with partners to try and determine the meanings of their partner’s words. You could even have them “assess” each other’s context clues and their effectiveness at helping the reader.
Download the Free Context Clues Activity HERE
More Context Clues Activities and Resources
Do you need more engaging, no-prep activities for teaching and practicing context clues with your 4th or 5th graders? Click on the links below to check out more context clues activities and resources for fiction and nonfiction.