Context Clues Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Use this lesson plan to guide your instruction on the comprehension skill of using context clues. Have students practice identifying context clues in text, deciphering their meaning. Next, students will create context clues of their own.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define context clues
  • list and define types of context clues
  • apply strategies to identify unknown words using context clues


  • 1 hour 30 minutes


  • Short stories to apply comprehension strategies
  • Chart paper
  • Highlighters

Key Vocabulary

  • Context clues
  • Synonym
  • Antonym
  • Inference

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10

By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4.a

Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or text; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4.d

Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).


Build Background Knowledge

  • Before class, write a sentence on the board that contains a word unfamiliar to your students.
  • Ask students to read the sentence and determine the meaning of the unknown word. After several guesses, explain that there is not enough information about the word to define.
  • Rewrite the sentence, adding text to give students context. Discuss how the addition of information helped define the unknown word even though there was no definition.

Direct Instruction

  • Show students our lesson Context Clue: Definition & Examples.
  • Write the definition for context clues on chart paper or the board.
  • Ask students to recall the four different types of context clues. Define and discuss.
  • Read a brief passage or story as a class. Find unknown words and use context clues to determine meaning. Identify the type of context clue you used and the text that allowed you to define the word.

Independent Practice

  • Distribute short stories. Direct students to highlight unknown words, then use context clues to determine meaning. Have students underline or circle parts of text that helped them define the word.
  • Circulate the room to assist and clarify. Pull small groups of students who need extra help.
  • Review and share answers as a class.


  • Separate students into four groups, assigning each a type of context clue.
  • Ask students to create sentences using unfamiliar words (you can assign or they can create) along with the type of context clue they've been assigned. Write a rough draft on notebook paper, and the final on chart paper.
  • Share with the class. Discus and evaluate student work. Ask:
    • What makes this a context clue?
    • What type of context clue did this group use?
    • What strategies did you use to determine the unknown word?
    • How did the group allow you to infer the meaning without defining it directly?


  • Ask students to find the lyrics to a favorite song and bring to class. Use context clues to infer meanings of unfamiliar words.
  • Practice using context clues on sentences or short text used on standardized testing.
  • Create a class chart for students to reference when reading independently.

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