This strategy is helpful in determining the meaning of words (or phrases) by the manner (or context) they are placed in a passage of reading.

Context is the part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.

The use of contextual clues can be one of the best ways to improve students' reading skills. Unfortunately, students often insist on understanding each word when reading. Realizing that a text can be understood in a general sense by using contextual clues can go a long way towards helping students cope with increasingly difficult texts. At the same time, the use of contextual clues can also provide a means by which students can rapidly increase their existing vocabulary base.

Four Context Clues

-What does the sentence concern? Which words does the unknown word seem to relate to? How does it fit into what you already know about the passage?

Part of Speech
-Which part of speech is the unknown word? Is it a verb, noun, preposition, adjective, time expression or something else? What are the different parts of speech? What purpose does each serve? Can I figure anything out from knowing the purpose a particular part of speech serve.

-What do the words around the unknown word(s) mean? How could the unknown word(s) relate to those words? - This is basically deduction on a smaller level.

Vocabulary Activation
-When quickly skimming through the text, what does the text seem to concern? Does the layout (design) of the text give any clues? Does the publication or type of book give any clues to what the text might be about? Which words can you think of that belong to this vocabulary category? Will a magazine on fashion provide different clues and meanings than a biology textbook?

Read This Carefully

Jack quickly entered the didot and cleaned the various misturaes he had been using to repair the wuipit. He had often thought that this job was extremely yullning. However, he had to admit that this time things seemed to be a bit easier. When he finished, he put on his redick and went back to the study to relax. He took out his favorite pipe and settled into the beautiful new pogtry. What a fantastic schnappy he had made when he had bought the pogtry. Only 300 yagmas!

-What could a 'didot' be?
-What part of speech is 'misturaes'?
-If Jack used the 'misturaes' to repair the 'wuipit' what do you think the 'misturaes' must be?

-What could 'yulling' mean? - What part of speech is often used with an ending '-ing'?
-Which synonym could be used for 'yulling'?
-fun? –difficult? –expensive?

-What is a redick?
-What type of things do you put on?
-Based on the above question, what kind of thing must a 'redick' be?

-What must 'yagmas' be?
-Cigarette type
-Type of money
-How do you know?

Even when words have no apparent meaning, one can still use context to determine the meanings (or logical meaning of given words).