Word meanings in context

Word meanings in context

I can use context clues to help determine the meaning of an unknown word.

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Word meanings in context

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In this lesson, students practice identifying and using context clues, using the acronym IDEAS: inference, definition, example, antonym, and synonym. They will read a passage from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and take part in a fun activity in which they guess the meaning of “nonsense words”!

Common core standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy. RL.6.4

Learning Objective

Students will be able to determine the meaning of unknown words and phrases as they are used in a text.


Have students think of what the item pictured could be. Then show the item again in a different setting. Can they identify the item now? Have students point out the different clues in the picture that helped them.


Explain what “context” is. Then show students the words on the next slide. Click on the covers to reveal more and more clues for each word. Describe the different types of context clues, using the acronym “IDEAS.” Share examples of each one, then have students read the sentences and determine the definitions of the indicated words using context clues. They should underline the clues then draw a line to the correct type of clue used. After this, read the passage from The Secret Garden. Then use context clues to define the unknown words from the story. You may choose to have students work together for this activity.


Students respond to 10 questions in which they review IDEAS, and also define nonsense words.


Students will write a short passage or story for a classmate to read. They should use the “nonsense words” listed on the slide and on the accompanying worksheet. Their partners will need to determine the meaning of these words as they are used in their peer’s writing piece. There is a printable worksheet for this activity.

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