Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Literacy Center Ideas: Context Clues

Do you remember back when 4 Blocks was the rage, the new thing?  I still love many of those activities.  One activity that was great was called "Guess the Covered Word".  I even bought a book just for that activity and inside it had all these so cool state of the art...wait for it...Color Transparencies.  This of course was before the age of the smart boards!!!  Not so many years ago, maybe 5 or so, we used overhead projectors instead.  Well back to the topic... These sheets had certain meaningful vocabulary words highlighted.  My job was to cover these words with post-its or highlighter tape and follow a series of revealing steps that unveiled clues.  The object was to guess the covered word with the least number of clues revealed. Here is a copy of one of the books for fourth grade.  Notice the overhead projector at the bottom..it dates it just a bit, don't ya think?


First the whole word was covered and students read the sentence, volunteering words they felt might belong in the blank.  I would write them on the whiteboard, then reread the sentence using the suggested words.  We would also look at the length of the space and consider which of the words we had written on the board looked too long or too short to fill that space.  The focus however was on the context of the sentence.  What words would make sense in the space?  I was teaching students how to use context clues.  

I haven't used that activity since the installation of my smart board, and the removal of my overhead projector.  However my teachers and I were just talking about making some of these on our smart boards and using the dark boxes to cover key words.  Of course, since it would be on the smart board, it would most likely be a whole class activity. 

Here is a smart board lesson already created from the Smart Exchange for grades 1 and 2 that teach this skill. These are FREE for teachers. (They are notebook files, which mean they are made for smart boards.  If you don't have that software, don't bother.) If you haven't ever been there, you are missing a valuable resource.  Go check it out!  Click on the picture below and it will take you there, but if you have a smart board, there is an icon at the top that looks like an X with a dot over the top, as well as the words in the menu to the left, that will get you there as well. 


Here is a You Tube video showing an excellent lesson on how to Guess the Covered Word.  The teacher running the lesson is doing it with her second grader.  Its really cute!  Click on the picture below to take a look.

I truly believe that for so many students, they need that smaller group to help focus their attention.  That is why I made a set of literacy center cards to teach this same concept.  They are called "Reading Skills Task Cards:  Context Clues".  Here are what a few of them look like...

When I am working with a group, usually 4 to 6 students at a time, I will use these. I generally start out reading the first card aloud and then thinking aloud for them, modeling how they might think to use the context of the sentence to figure out the correct meaning of the word. Then I will give out a card to each partner set and listen in as they try to work together to do the same.  After a time, I go over their answer choices with them, but the most important part is to go over what I heard them saying as they were thinking.  These babies just need more practice thinking like this, and before long they WILL get the hang of it.  Repeated practice is the key!  There are 20 cards in this set.  You can pick them up at my TPT store or TN shop.

Have fun teaching!


  1. I just wanted to let you know I shared a little blog love for you today over on my blog. You are part of my 365 Blog Hop Challenge! Keep up the awesomeness!


    1. Hi Debra,
      Thank you for visiting my blog. I went over for a visit and love your write-up about my blog and stores on TPT adn TN!!! What a cool idea- visiting 365 blogs in a year. Thanks for including me!
      - Susan

  2. I love Guess the Covered Word activities! They are great especially for those struggling readers. :)
    Conversations in Literacy

    1. Lori,
      I couldn't agree more. I actually miss my old overhead projector at times. It was much eaiser to quickly pull out my "already typed" sheets for this activity. That's why I was glad to see thie done on the Smart Board. I still do this in my small stragegy groups with my strugglers too. Thanks for your comment.


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