With some encouragement from my friends, I’ve decided to start a new series on the blog titled “Evidence-Based Interventions.” I don’t know about you, but I need this series. Actually, we are all required to seek out and perform the very best, sound evidence from systematic research in relation to an individual student.
- It is the position of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association that audiologists and speech-language pathologists incorporate the principles of evidence-based practice in clinical decision making to provide high quality clinical care. The term evidence-based practice refers to an approach in which current, high-quality research evidence is integrated with practitioner expertise and client preferences and values into the process of making clinical decisions.
There is often a lot of insecurity and even fear surrounding those two little words “Evidence-Based.” It’s as if we’re waiting for that parent or administrator to charge into our room, shake their finger at us and demand we provide proof that what we are doing works. And we really should know, to some degree.
However, ASHA also makes it clear that our job is to “interpret best current evidence from systematic research in relation to an individual.” This means that even the best, highly evidenced interventions won’t work for ever single student on our caseload. It is our job to take into consideration “preferences, environment, culture, and values regarding health and well-being.”
So, please keep that in mind as I begin this series. I hope you benefit as much as I will be!
First up on our list is CONTEXT CLUES.
What does the research say?
1. Hibbard, R. (2009) found that context clue instruction improved student’s word learning strategies and that explicit instruction proved to be effective in teaching context clues.
2. Cain (2007) studied students reading short stories (each containing novel words with contextual clues that students could use to infer the word’s meaning). When students were asked to define the novel word at the end of each story, they improved in the quality of their word definitions. The article notes the greatest gains were made when children explained their own definitions or the experimenter’s correct definition.
3. Nash & Snowling (2006) studied two types of vocabulary intervention: definition method and the context method. The findings concluded that both groups showed greater knowledge of the taught vocabulary directly after instruction. However, three months later, the context group showed significantly better expressive vocabulary knowledge and comprehension of text containing the targeted vocabulary.
There were several other articles that listed teaching context clues as an effective vocabulary strategy. However, I think it is also important to note two things:
- Dependence on a single vocabulary instruction method will not result in optimal learning (NICHD, 2000).
- Much of the research discusses the benefits of explicit instruction of context clues. This means systematically teaching and providing guidelines on how to achieve the goal. Often, (myself included here!) we can get so focused on taking data and getting those “number of trials” in that we forget to teach. Pulling out context clue cards and running though sentences to collect data does not count here as “explicit instruction.”
I have a systematic method I use for teaching context clues found in my Leveled Vocabulary Intervention Binder. This is by far not the only way to teach them but perhaps you can get a few ideas from the many pictures I’m about to post!
1. First and foremost, I require my students to tell me what a “context clue” is. Teachers use this vocabulary in their classrooms all day long but if my little Johnny has no idea what it is, he’s lost from the star
With this flap, my students are required to say the meaning of a context clue, teach a friend AND give an example (which is difficult) before we move on. I’ll usually give my own example and the students can build their’s from mine. And sometimes….we spend a lot of time going over this definition and providing examples before we ever turn the page.
2. Next, I break down an example of my own, with SPECIFIC steps on HOW TO identify and use context clues. Talking aloud for how you reach conclusions is an EXTREMELY helpful strategy for helping our students know how to.
Usually, my thoughts go somethings like “Well, that sentence has the word “frigid” in it. I have no idea what “frigid means! Let’s follow these steps to find out.” (Side-note: have you ever noticed how much pleasure students get when you don’t know something?! Their little faces just light up, especially if they know the answer!”)
One of the most important things I highlight is that last step: Checking the word by putting it back into the sentence to see if it makes sense. This provides that independent feedback that students need when you’re not right over their shoulder telling them if the answer is correct or not. By doing this, you’ve equipped your students to self-monitor this strategy in their very own classrooms.
3. Okay, so maybe you’re thinking your students aren’t quite to the level of these higher level vocabulary words (I always use Tier 2 vocabulary when I can). That’s okay! I start my students out with nonsense words so they really get the meaning of what a context clue does for them.
Not only does this make it clear that a context clue is there to HELP, my students have a ton of fun playing detective with these silly sentences.
4. When my students are ready, I crank up the vocabulary to Tier 2 words and provide them with a checklist on how to determine and use the context clues. Don’t forget that last important step of checking their work!
I hope this post provides you with not only the evidence to teach context clues but has given you ideas on how EXPLICITLY teach them, which is what research says is truly important.
For additional context clue practice, I have these resources in my store:
Looking for more? Here are some of my favorite products from friends using context clues:
- Veterans Day and Memorial Day Vocabulary Activities: Context Clues & Synonyms
- Black History Month: Listening Comprehension and Vocabulary Activities
- Context Clue Games
- Context Clues Detectives
- Piggy Bank Context Clues QR Fun
- Context Clues in Color
- It’s Raining Idioms (fun freebie to determine idioms using context clues)
- Language Progress Monitoring (there’s a great section in there on assessing context clues)
- Cain, K. (2007, November 1). Deriving word meanings from context: Does explanation facilitate contextual analysis? Journal of Research in Reading, 30(4), 347–359. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ778837). Retrieved August 18, 2009, from ERIC database.
- Hibbard, R. (2009). The Effects of Context Clue Instruction on Finding an Unknown Word. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from http://reflectivepractitioner.pbworks.com/f/capstone3.pdf
- Nash, H., & Snowling, M. (2006, May 1). Teaching new words to children with poor existing vocabulary knowledge: A controlled evaluation of the definition and context methods. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 41(3), 335–354. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ747456). Retrieved August 18, 2009, from ERIC database.
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.