At the VSRA conference last week, I was very happy that I attended the Word Analysis workshop presented by Beth Estill, a fellow reading specialist and literacy coach from Virginia Beach. She shared her division’s plan for attacking this standard, and what she’d put together for the teachers in her division. I just loved her presentation, and it’s gotten me thinking about this standard and how I can better weave word analysis into our daily routine. I think with focused effort, I will see growth in other reading domains as well. So, let’s break down this standard and get to the meat of this post.
How Can We Best Teach Context Clues?
One way to introduce anaphoras is with pronoun substitutions. You can model the challenge that comes with using only nouns. Have student volunteers hold a word poster of each word in the following sentence:
Have the students holding the words, Sarah and John run from the front of the sentence to the beginning of the next sentence. Read faster and faster to show that it’s a lot of work to use the same words when Sarah and John can be replaced with the word, They. (I do)
Once students understand what an anaphora is, then they’re ready to practice (We do). Examples like this one work well for group discussion.
As students begin to understand the pronoun usage, then teachers can move on to noun replacements. It takes special attention, so additional practice may be needed with it.
Another great way to address context clues is with quality literature. Students need to work on Tier 2 vocabulary, meaning high utility words that are just beyond what the student know. I think of Tier 2 words as the juicy words we want students to use in their writing. Sharing vocabulary rich books as mentor texts is one great way to expose children to new authors and to model with think aloud how we should tackle new words. Key questions you can ask are:
- What do you think this word means?
- How can you figure it out?
- How is it used? (part of speech)
- How else might we use it?
- Can you find examples or non-examples within the text?
Authors I love for vocabulary rich stories include Patricia Polacco, William Steig, Patricia MacLachlan,and Chris VanAllsburg. For younger grades, Karma Wilson’s Bear Books, Eve Bunting, and Cynthia Rylant are great go-to authors. Prior to reading the book, preselect the words you plan to discuss.
A final type of activity that works well are task cards with sentence level clues and paragraph level clues. With these, nonsense words focus students on the clues that help them. Students should be taught where to find clues and what type are used. Here are a few types of clues we see often:
- Synonym clues
- Antonym clues
- Definition or renaming
- Explanation or Example
Here are examples of each type.
For vocabulary, we can write a sentence or two with nonsense words and have students team up and discuss the clues they find to determine a substitute word. Student talk helps students show their thinking and apply their learning. Task cards can also be used for games such as Scoot, Jeopardy, and even Connect Four.
There are many ways to teach context clues, and these three will hopefully help you find what works for your students. I will come back in a few days to share another vocabulary building skill to continue my series of posts. Have a great day, and come back soon.