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Lesson Plans
Vocabulary Building: Using Context Clues
3rd–4th Grade
Objective Objective

Students will use context clues to decode unfamiliar words.

Materials Materials Needed
Introduction Introduction

In a low voice, say to students, “If you can hear me, please raise your snooble.”
Students will likely giggle or give you a quizzical look, but simply repeat the instruction until one or two students begin raising their hands. Acknowledge their correct responses with a smile or nod.

Once other students begin to catch on, confirm that the nonsense word “snooble” meant hand. Ask a volunteer to explain how she guessed the correct meaning of the nonsense word.



  1. Explain that good readers often use context clues to decode unfamiliar vocabulary words. Point out that other words in the text may give them hints about the meaning of words they do not know.
  2. Display a few example sentences on the board to demonstrate the use of context clues in decoding word meanings, such as:
    • The angry dog barked ferociously, scaring the young kitten.
    • After studying, Tom is optimistic he will do well on the test.
    • The courageous explorer climbed the dangerous mountain.
  3. Remind the students that the other words in the sentence, or context clues, will give them an idea of what the words mean.
  4. Invite volunteers to try to decode the meaning of the underlined words. Then have them come up to the board and circle other words in the sentence that served as context clues. (For example, in the first sentence, they might circle the word “angry” or “scaring” because these words indicate that the dog’s bark was ferocious.)

Guided/Independent Practice

Guided/Independent Practice

  1. Declare all of your students word detectives! Distribute a copy of the Word Detective Activity to each student.
  2. Have students work with a partner or small group. Instruct them to read the paragraph together and use context clues to discover the meaning of the nonsense words.
  3. Encourage students to write the meaning of each word and list all of the context clues that helped them decode the correct meaning of the word.

the 3rd–4th grade lesson plan. (Includes all printable materials.)




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