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 TIP #185   This tip was sent on the week: Nov 23rd- Nov 29th, 2008
 

Tips For Study Skills - from the How-to-Study.com Website

Tip #185 - Building Vocabulary: Using Context Clues to Learn Word Meaning

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Word Magic Software is proud to announce an alliance with How-To-Study.com, a renowned Study Skills Resource site that seeks to aid English and Spanish-speaking students improve their own skills and provide resources for their elementary, middle school and high school studies. This is the second of a series of 5 tips, which is our joint contribution to all our subscribers. Good news for our Spanish-speaking customers!  These tips are being sent in Spanish too! We hope they are of great help to you.  We highly recommend them.


When authors write, they often include context clues to the meaning of words they use but think that some of their readers may not know. The context clue is usually presented in the sentence or paragraph in which the word occurs. Sometimes a visual such as a picture is provided. Here are six types of context clues used by authors to help the reader understand the meanings of words. An example is provided for each.


1. Definition context clue. The author includes a definition to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. In the following example, “tainted” is defined as having a disease.
The people of the town were warned not to eat the tainted fish. The local newspaper published a bulletin in which readers were clearly told that eating fish that had a disease could be very dangerous. This was especially true for fish caught in Lake Jean.

2. Synonym context clue. The author includes a synonym to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. A synonym is a word that means the same as or nearly the same as another word. In the following example, the synonym “pity” helps the reader understand the meaning of “compassion.”
After seeing the picture of the starving children, we all felt compassion or pity for their suffering.

3. Antonym context clue. The author includes an antonym to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. An antonym is a word that means the opposite of another word. In the following example, the antonym “eager” helps the reader understand the meaning of “reluctant.”
Joe was reluctant to take on the position of captain of the basketball team. He was afraid that the time it would take would hurt his grades. On the other hand, Billy was eager for the chance to be captain. He thought that being captain of the team would make him very popular in school.

4. Description context clue. The author includes one or more descriptions to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. In the following example, descriptions of President Kennedy as having charm, enthusiasm, and a magnetic personality help the reader understand the meaning of “charismatic.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our 35th president, improved human rights and equal rights for all people. He was a very charismatic president. People were attracted to his charm and enthusiasm. His personality was described as magnetic.

5. Summary context clue. The author makes a number of statements that help the reader understand the meaning of a word. In the following example, statements about being rude, showing no respect, having poor manners, and being impolite help the reader understand the meaning of “impertinent.”
Andrea was a very impertinent young lady. She was so rude that she talked while her teacher was explaining a lesson. She showed no respect for other students. Her manners were very poor. Even her parents thought that Andrea was impolite.

6. Visual context clue. The author includes a picture, drawing, chart, graph, or other type of visual to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. For example, to help the reader understand that "exultant" means great joy, a picture of a girl with a joyful expression on her face might appear. A caption under the picture might read "She was exultant." Using the context clues provided by authors can help you learn the meaning of many new words.

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