Context Clues

June 9, 2015

The workbook, Using Context Clues To Help Kids Tackle Unfamiliar Words had many pages missing. That was a clue reminding me that I started using this workbook years ago, but that for some reason I stopped .  The reason, of course, could be only one – at that time, I didn’t know how to teach Robert to pay attention to those words in a sentence that might have pointed to the meaning of an unfamiliar word. Maybe those supposedly helpful  words were too difficult. Maybe the sentences were too long and the links between words were lost. As the tasks grew more difficult from page to page, I abandoned the idea of using the workbook. But learning how to derive the meaning of a new word from the clues left by other words in the sentence, is important.  Rarely, the stories Robert read offered opportunity to practice that skill when unknown words popped up in the text.  That was not enough for Robert.

Last week, Robert and I returned to the book and day after day Robert was engaged in Reading Detective Practices as the units in this workbook are called. The tasks didn’t seem too difficult although often Robert still needed support.

Today, I was surprised to see how quickly Robert chose the correct word  out of three choices. Famished – Starving; Hazardous – Dangerous;  Flawed – Imperfect;  Abhors-Hates; Bevy – Group; Terminating – Ending. He hesitated with choosing “HOME” to replace “DWELLING” He was lost with “PARCHED”. The sentence talked about quickly drinking a glass of water.  Robert has never connected the  word “DRY”  with the word “THROAT”.  Thus, the word “THROAT ” in the sentence didn’t help Robert to decipher PARCHED as DRY but confused him  instead.

I understand Robert’s difficulties with that word.  What  I don’t understand is what Robert’s ability to point to the meaning of those other words came from.  Is he able to  scan quickly the whole sentence  for clues?  Does he put all other words in the sentence to find out if they make sense?  Or does he still, in the most uncanny way, record and read those movements of my eyes, hands, or mouth that without my knowledge point Robert to the  correct answer?

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