Context clues are free definitions of difficult words used in textbooks. It is not always good for a student to stop reading the text to look up every word that he or she doesn't know in the dictionary. The student may get distracted and not return to the textbook or may loose interest while seeking a dictionary. To eliminate the possibility of loosing a reader authors use context clues. Authors give the definition of a vocabulary term in the paragraph. There are several types of context clues.
1. The author states the definition in the sentence. The
author may use is, is called, means or other similar words
to indicate the definition.
Example A feline is a cat.
2. The author gives the definition in the sentence and sets it
off with commas, parentheses, or dashes. A definition
set off with commas is called an appositive.
Examples The children were learning origami, Japanese paper folding.
Target organ (an organ of the body that reacts to harmones) is an important term to understand
when studying physiology.
In biology class the immune system is being studied; the professor stressed the importance of
antibodies--protein molecules produced to fight infection.
3. The author uses or to give the reader a choice between
using the difficult word or a synonym.
Example Antitrust policies or antimonopoly policies began in the United States in the 1800's.
4. The author tells what a word does not mean. Therefore, the
reader must think of the opposite of that word to determine
the definition of the difficult word.
Example An astute person is certainly not foolish.
5 . The author can lead the reader to the definition of a word by giving examples in the sentence.
Example The New York Times, Reader's Digest, and Newsweek are periodicals.
Find examples of each type of context clue in the chapter that you are currently reading. Type the sentence with the context clue, identify the type of context clue, identify the difficult word and identify the definition. If the author does not use all of the context clues then you may make up a sentence (with the missing context clue) using the vocabulary from that chapter.