In contrast context clues, an antonym for the word is given in the text. Words like although, however, and not-this-but may signal contrast clues.
Daniel was apprehensive about mountain climbing, but Sam had no worries at all.
In this contrasting context, no worries at all are clue words. Therefore, apprehensive means the opposite of no worries at all. Students can infer that apprehensive means feeling anxiety about future events.
The sweltering weather was soon replaced with cool, gentle breezes.
Ask students to find clue words to help determine the meaning of the word sweltering. Students should quickly realize that this sentence contains contrasting statements. The words cool, gentle breezes mean the opposite of sweltering. With a little thought, students can determine the word sweltering means overly hot and humid.
What do context clues questions look like on standardized tests?
Context clues are usually tested using matching or multiple-choice questions.
Sample Question #1 – Matching
Read the sentences on the left. Match the bold word from each sentence on the left to its definition on the right.
fried in a small amount of hot fat
to press into less space
The correct answers are introverted > shy, dilate > make wider or larger, and sautéed > fried in a small amount of hot fat.
Sample Question #2 – Multiple Choice
What is the meaning of picturesque as it is used in this sentence?
I thought the painting of the waves crashing into the shore was very picturesque, however, I thought the one next to it was quite ugly.
A. visually pleasing, enchanting, or unusual
B. evoking vivid images
C. a broad, framed view of the outside
D. differing from the norm
Picturesque means A. visually pleasing, enchanting, or unusual.
Sample Question #3 – Multiple Choice
Which phrase from the sentence best helps clarify the meaning of ostentatiously?
Sally likes to dress ostentatiously. I’ve never seen her wear a dull color.
A. likes to dress
B. Sally likes
C. dull color
D. never seen her wear
The answer is C. dull color. The phrase dull colors contrast with ostentatiously letting the reader know that ostentatiously is the opposite of dull colors.
Sample Question #4 – Multiple Choice
Read this sentence.
During the circus, the young girl chuckled when she saw the dog act, yet when the clowns came into the ring she let out a large chortle.
Select the best synonym for chortle as it is used in the sentence?
Chortle means to give or express a loud bark of laughter. The best synonym is B. cackle which is also a loud laughing sound.
Free Context Clues Activities
This activity introduces students to using contrasting context clues. This mini-lesson is a vocabulary-building exercise for upper elementary and middle school students.
In this lesson, students watch the video. The video goes over the definition of contrasting context clues and two examples. Next students pause the video to complete either the digital or printable organizer. After completing the organizer, students continue watching the video to check their responses. This mini activity is a great introduction for a context clues lesson.
Assign these activities through Google Classroom for distance or classroom learning. Click here to download the free activities from Google Drive.
Want to Dig Deeper?
Select an interesting passage from a novel. Delete keywords. Have students read the passage and add words that work with the context of the sentences. Next, compare the original passage to the student answers. Discuss why some words work and others don’t.
Here is an example from the novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
The plane, committed now to landing, to crashing, ________ into the wide place like a ______________, and Brian eased back on the wheel and ______________ himself for the crash. But there was a tiny bit of ____________ left and when he pulled on the wheel the nose came ____________ and he saw in front the blue of the _______________ and at that instant the plane hit the trees.
There was a great wrenching as the ___________ caught the pines at the side of the clearing and broke back, ripping back just outside the main braces. Dust and ___________ blew off the floor into his face so hard he thought there must have been some kind of explosion. He was momentarily ________________ and slammed forward in the ______________, smashing his head on the ______________.
The plane, committed now to landing, to crashing, fell into the wide place like a stone, and Brian eased back on the wheel and braced himself for the crash. But there was a tiny bit of speed left and when he pulled on the wheel the nose came up and he saw in front the blue of the lake and at that instant the plane hit the trees.
There was a great wrenching as the wings caught the pines at the side of the clearing and broke back, ripping back just outside the main braces. Dust and dirt blew off the floor into his face so hard he thought there must have been some kind of explosion. He was momentarily blinded and slammed forward in the seat, smashing his head on the wheel.
Activity#2 – Free Activities from Book Units Teacher
- Walk Two Moons This link goes to 3 board games with sentences from the novel Walk Two Moons. Each game contains 12 practice sentences for students with missing words. Students use context clues to determine which word from the word bank goes in the sentence.
- Bump Games for The One and Only Bob (digital or printable) and Al Capone Does my Shirts (digital or printable) – These links take you Bump Games containing practice with sentences from the novels. Games are a fun way to practice context clues. These activities are great for both classroom and distance learning.
- The Wizard of Oz Task Cards or Peter Pan Task Cards – These downloads each contain a set of 24 task cards containing multiple-choice questions based on sentences from the novels.
- PowerPoint This PowerPoint contains 17 cloze sentence exercises. Students will see one sentence at a time which contains a missing word. A word bank is provided for students to complete the sentence. Students first look for clue words in the sentence. With one click of the mouse, the clue words are highlighted.
- Biblical, Literary, Historical, and Mythical Allusions (digital or printable) In the lesson activity, students will use context clues to determine the meanings of the mythological, biblical, literary, and historical allusions. Students will also use allusions in sentences.
This lesson is a free sample from my Vocabulary Digital + Printable Interactive Video Lessons & Organizers on TPT.