Teaching Vocabulary in Context

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  • 0:02 Why Context Matters
  • 1:15 Finding Clues in Sentences
  • 2:25 Making Connections
  • 3:41 Interactive Strategies
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ryan Hultzman
Learning vocabulary in context helps people make connections for better comprehension. We'll look at a variety of learning strategies that can help students understand and incorporate new words effectively. After the lesson, test your new knowledge with our quiz questions!

Why Context Matters

Imagine yourself facing forward, repeatedly bending your knees, and then jumping as you extend your arms, pushing upward at a 45 degree angle. This might seem to be a pointless exercise until you are handed a basketball and learn that this motion prepares you to make foul shots and earn your team points.

Or, imagine yourself viewing a screen on which a woman has tears streaming down her face. You would likely wonder why she is crying. Are her tears from the loss of someone? Are they tears of joy or relief? Is she in physical pain? Until you see the full situation that explains her tears, you do not understand the reason for them.

As these examples show, a person's limited knowledge prevents one from fully understanding how a single aspect of the situation functions within the framework of the scene. Likewise, learning vocabulary words outside of the context in which they are used prevents a person from fully understanding how the word functions within the framework of our language. To best understand a word, knowing its context, or circumstances, is key.

Finding Clues in Sentences

When determining the meaning of an unfamiliar word, it is often helpful to see the word used in a sentence and to find clues within the sentence that suggest the word's meaning. For example, consider this sentence:

The radiance of the electric light display almost blinded the audience.

To determine the meaning of the word 'radiance,' one can identify other words such as 'electric,' 'light,' and 'blinded' as clues. Considering the word's part of speech, a noun, also helps to determine meaning.

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