Putting Context Clues into Context
We tell our readers to use context clues when they come upon a word that they don't know. But do they really know the definition of "context"? Some readers just keep trying to sound out the word and hope to decide its meaning by simply looking at it longer.
Define "context" as the sentences literally just before or after a word/phrase they don't know. "Context" is simply the surrounding sentences. Students should look in nearby sentences for clues as to what the word/phrase might mean.
Reverse--When students come across an unfamiliar word, encourage them to reverse their reading direction and reread the 1-2 sentences that precede the word. Going back over the sentence or sentences right before the word can offer some clues as to what it might mean.
Fast forward--In the same way, as students see a word they're not sure of, instruct them to then read beyond it for a sentence or two to see if they can figure out what might make sense.
Teach students to read the "context" for "clues" by using the rewind and fast-forward method. Just like a DVD player, readers can stop, go back (reverse), or read ahead (fast forward).
RI/RL.3-12.4 Determine the meaning of words...in a text...