If words are the building blocks of literacy, providing students with the tools necessary for understanding new vocabulary is critical for reading and writing development. As students progress through the grade levels, the volume of tier two and tier three terms increases. The ability to comprehend complex vocabulary is a fundamental component of literacy, especially when referring to new concepts and subject matter. I like to think of the strategies listed below as tools students can utilize when reading independently. With enough practice, the strategies will become an automatic function of independent reading.
Teach students to be word detectives. As texts get more complex, the ability to use context to determine meaning increases in significance. Surrounding words will often provide readers with hints to the meaning and use of the new word. Teaching students a self-questioning strategy and providing frequent examples will support students in recognizing context clues on their own. A list of commonly used context clues is provided below.
- Definition: Word meaning is directly stated
- Restatement/Synonym: A similarity is provided (possible signal word: like)
- Contrast/Antonym: A difference is provided (possible signal word: but)
- Example: Word meaning is supported with an example
- Punctuation: Commas, parentheses, and/or dashes are used to set apart word meaning