Let’s dive into activities for teaching context clues in the primary grades. I also have a post that breaks down how to teach vocabulary strategies that you can find here.


activities for teaching context clues

Activity #1 Picture Journal for Vocabulary

Many young learners are very concrete and visual. You can let students keep a picture journal to illustrate unknown words they find in the text. Encourage students to use the context clues or a vocabulary strategy to decipher the meaning of the unknown word as they read. Let students record the newly discovered word in a journal and create an illustration of the word. This will pair very well with words that have visual descriptions in the text as context clues. Illustrating will help them to understand the meaning of the new word more by making it more real and concrete.

Now if you already use a vocabulary journal, this can simply be a section in their notebook dedicated to illustrating words. For some students who are still developing their writing, you may want to start with just having a picture journal all together until they are ready to be pushed with writing the word’s meaning.

You can also extend this by having students also write their interpretation of what the word means. Bonus: You may need to read these for a good laugh every now and then. 😂

Activity #2 Clue Into the Word

With this activity, students revisit a word they wrote in their vocabulary journal or picture journal. If your students do not have a vocabulary journal, simply challenge them one day to find an unknown word and use context clues to decipher the meaning. Then have students write their word with its meaning and/or illustration on a sheet of paper. Students will mainly just need access to a word they have discovered on their own and figured out the meaning through context clues. Have students write the word in a sentence on a sheet of paper or even type it up on an iPad. With their new sentence handy, let students visit with other students, share their sentence, and ask the other student what it means. Let students switch partners as much as you like. You can also extend this a bit more by having students write down the words that were shared with them on a sheet of paper, and then hold a class discussion of the new words that were learned. It is a fun way to collaborate and learn new words in context. After all, they say the ones that learn the most are the ones that teach it, and this activity lets the students teach with something they have learned.

Activity #3 Digital Mystery Stories

Mystery themes and context clues go hand and hand, so why not let students read a mystery story and look to uncover unknown words with context clues? To make the reading more engaging, let them read digitally. I actually put together these task cards that have a story being told across from card-to-card. Students solve the unknown word, slide the magnifying glass to the word’s meaning, and answer some reading comprehension questions at the end that involves more higher-order thinking. It is good practice to build up their confidence by using context clues so that activities like Clue Into the Word can be done with confidence. You can find the context clue cards by clicking here for the digital ones or here for the printable ones.

context clues for Google Classroom digital task cards

I hope you found these activities helpful to help deepen the use of context clues! Context clues and vocabulary strategies are something I am very passionate about because I really do believe that is a big gap missing with students struggling with reading in the older grades and even adulthood. If you would like access to a resource library full of free teaching resources and a free course on using technology in the primary grades, make sure to sign-up here.

activities for teaching context clues

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