Context Clues

5 Kid Approved Context Clues Activities for Upper Elementary

5 Kid Approved Context Clues Activities

Context clues has always been something that I’ve needed to spiral throughout the entire year with my third graders, so finding fun and engaging activities has been a huge priority. I figure a lot of you are in the same boat so I’ve decided to share some of my best go-to ideas with you.

Interactive Anchor Chart

If you’re like me, you use anchor charts for everything. I’ve even used an anchor chart for how to behave in the bathroom, but that’s a different story for another time. So, as with everything else, my context clues instruction has always started with an anchor chart. I’ve learned a few things over the years about how to make effective anchor charts and prevent them from just becoming wall decorations. The most important of which were to make them with the kids instead of ahead of time and to make them interactive.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to have the kids make their own anchor charts in their reading interactive notebooks. I give them a framework and they add to it with me. (Examples below) This helps them focus on the important parts of the concept and gives them a personal reference to look back on when they need a refresher. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or cutesy. All you need to do is think about the most important things you want them to remember about using context clues and work around that.

Vocabulary and Context Clues Interactive Notebook Cultivating Critical Readers.png

Make your large context clues anchor chart interactive by leaving pieces of it blank for the students to fill in with their work during stations or reading workshop. Pro-tip: Have the kids use post-it notes if you’re departmentalized to save the anchor chart for the next class(es).

Station Games

Everything is more fun when it’s turned into a game. Seriously, what kid doesn’t jump at the chance to play a game during class?  Games are great for targeting specific concepts such as homophones, prefixes & suffixes, etc. You can also use them to spiral context clues practice throughout the entire year! The kids really love when the context clues station games are changed up for seasons and holidays. It just adds a little festive feeling to stations.

Halloween Homophones Game for Third Grade and Fourth Grade Reading.png

New games not in the budget? No problem! Did you know you can turn regular board games like Jenga, Connect 4, and Candy Land into context clues games just by adding task cards? The rules to the game stay the same with one minor modification: the students must complete a task card before taking a turn. Yep, it’s that simple. And the kids will love it!

Context Clues Connect 4.png

Scoot Activities

I figure if I don’t want to sit at a desk and work all day, there’s no way kids want to either. Getting them up and moving around the room to practice context clues with a scoot activity is way more fun and engaging. It’s also super quick and easy to set up. Just post context clues task cards around the room or in the hallway, pass out some recording sheets, and set your expectations for how you want your students to move from card to card.

BOOM Cards

I just learned about BOOM Cards this year and I am so unbelievably excited about them. They are basically digital task cards with loads of amazing features that are perfect for iPads and SmartBoards. First of all, they are interactive and self-checking. Who doesn’t love that? One of my favorite things about them is that they can be created with audio built in, which really helps with differentiation.  Watch the short clip I recorded from my desktop of my Valentine’s Day Context Clues BOOM Cards to see how easy it is for a student to get oral administration of the question and answer choices. It’s so helpful when you have students who need accommodations to be successful with grade level material! ** Not all BOOM Card decks are created equally though. Look for information about the features of the deck in the description before buying it. They won’t all come with audio.

Want to learn more about BOOM Learning? Their YouTube videos are full of super helpful information!

Word Collections

Frequent independent reading of rich and varied texts is a HUGE component in an effective vocabulary program. This is where it all comes together, really. Students use the context clues strategies you taught them as they encounter new words in their own reading lives. We can promote an appreciation for these new words by helping the students create personal collections of their favorite new words. Donovan’s Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross is a great mentor text to help you get the conversation about the power of words started with your students.

Word Jar for Personal Word Collections

These FREE word jars for interactive notebooks give students a fun place to store their newly acquired vocabulary words and can even help them incorporate them into their writing. They can also be used in a vocabulary station or as a whole class collection.

 

You can find all of the context clues activities featured in this article here.

 

5 Kid Approved Context Clues Activities for Upper Elementary from Cultivating Critical Readers

Interactive Notebooks, Plot Structure

6 Easy Ways to Help Your Students Understand Plot Structure

6 Easy Ways to Help Your Students Understand Plot Structure

Fiction (and all of its sub genres) are my favorites to teach. I love seeing my students connect and grow with the characters as they face and overcome challenges together. I love watching them learn tough lessons and gain new perspectives. And I love helping them understand how the plot develops and sucks them into the book.

Having a complete understanding of plot structure helps readers analyze, discuss, and appreciate fiction texts. Here are four simple ways to help your students master identifying the plot’s main events, sequencing main events in the story, and understanding how events influence future events and help develop the plot.

 

The shape of the plot structure mental model-min

THINK ABOUT THE SHAPE OF YOUR MENTAL MODEL

Stop using the witch’s hat! Mental models are great for helping students understand and remember important skills and topics, but they can do harm if they send the wrong message. The symmetrical witch’s hat and/or roller coaster shape gives students the wrong picture for how the plot develops throughout the story. The climax is almost never in the middle. Rather, the author spends a great deal of time developing rich characters and building their problem(s) with mounting tension, leading to the inevitable moment when the tension breaks and a resolution is born. Shaping the mental model correctly helps students understand how the main events work together to develop the plot.

 

Plot structure interactive notebook pages-min

USE INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS

Engaging the students in creating their own interactive mini-anchor chart strengthens their understanding and increases the likelihood that they will remember the lesson. Another reason I love using interactive notebooks for reading strategies and skills is that this resource is always at their fingertips.

Using interactive notebooks to practice and reinforce the skills and strategies you teach during reading workshop and/or shared reading gives the students a central place to store valuable materials and work. When a student is confused by a skill, he/she has multiple sources of information at his/her fingertips to refresh his/her memory. Sometimes looking back at a previous activity clarifies the topic better than an anchor chart.

 

TEACH YOUR STUDENTS TO ANTICIPATE THE STRUCTURE OF THE TEXT

Kids like to know what to expect.  This preference transfers easily to their reading and is the simplest way to reinforce the parts of the plot structure while preparing the students for their reading.

After you teach the plot structure and that (most) fiction texts follow this same structure, you can begin teaching the students to mentally prepare to read this genre.  Before we read anything in our classroom, we preview the text and predict the genre.  Once we identify that the text is a fiction story, we “prepare a space in our brains” for the story.  I ask the students what kinds of things they can expect to find when reading the story.  I usually hear a few pieces of the plot shouted out and use those pieces to lead them to the plot structure.  We then physically move our hands in front of our brains to form the (realistic) shape of the plot structure.  This helps the students prepare to analyze how the author develops the story.

 

Sequencing in Plot Structure Lesson Plans-min

SEQUENCING – GO BEYOND PUTTING THE EVENTS IN ORDER

Sequencing the plot’s main events should be the first step in our sequencing lessons. We then need to help our students dig deeper into the text and analyze how the events influence future events and help develop the plot.

My favorite way to introduce the concept that the plot’s main events influence each other is by removing an event from a sequencing graphic organizer and asking, “How would the story be different if this event never happened?” This gets the kids thinking and discussing how that event led to the problem, resolution, lesson, etc. Once students grasp the basic understanding of why particular events are important to the story, you can have analytical discussions of how the events work together to develop the plot structure of the story.

PRACTICE DURING INDEPENDENT READING & BOOK CLUBS

Students can practice identifying main plot points from the books they read during independent reading with coded post-it notes. They can then discuss the significance of these events and how they help shape the story with their book club, book buddy, or the class after independent reading is over.

You can teach them to code the post-it notes themselves or print precoded ones. (Ex: C – character, S – setting, RA – main event in the rising action, P/C – problem/conflict, CL – climax, FA – main event in the falling action, R – resolutions, CN – conclusion) See how to print on post-it notes in this video from We Are Teachers.

 

CONNECT IT TO WRITING

Help students develop a deeper understanding of plot structure by having them write their own fiction stories. You can even have them use the same graphic organizer that you used while teaching plot structure during reading as their planning sheet.

 

You can get my complete plot structure lesson plans here.

These lesson plans will help you teach your students to identify the plot’s main events, sequence main events in the story, and understand how events influence future events and help develop the plot.

You can find the interactive notebook pages shown here.

All interactive notebook pages can be sold by individual skill/strategy or as a part of the bundles.

 

6 Easy Ways to Help Your Students Understand Plot Structure

Interactive Notebooks

6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Interactive Notebooks

6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Interactive Notebooks

These 6 tips will help you use interactive notebooks as a powerful teaching tool and keep you sane in the process.

 

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE

Without a good routine, all the chatting, cutting, coloring, and gluing can make you come unglued.  Take some time to think about how you want things to run.

  • Where do you want materials to be stored?  How do you want students to access them?
  • How/when do you want to give directions?
  • When do you want students to begin cutting?  Do you want them to wait until you are finished talking? Or, are you alright with them cutting while they listen to you?
  • How/when will the students take care of their trash?
  • What will students do if they finish early and have extra wait time?  Do you want them to help others catch up?

Once you decide how you want to run your lessons, make sure you teach these procedures and routines to the students.  When kids know what to anticipate, things run smoothly.

HAVE A PLAN

Interactive notebooks can be used in many fabulous ways, so you really need to think about the resource and how it can be used to help your students understand or practice a concept. Is it a good introduction with a definition of the skill/strategy?  Can it be used as an activity to reinforce what your students are learning?  Should it be used as an exit ticket or reflection after a lesson is taught?  How you decide to use the interactive notebook is what makes it a powerful teaching tool. Below are some of my favorite ways to use them to in reading workshop.

example anchor charts-min

Mini Anchor Charts

Engaging students in creating interactive mini anchor charts helps them zero in on the key ideas of the skills and strategies. I love having mini anchor charts in their interactive notebooks because it serves as a reference for them throughout the year.

 

 

example short texts-min

Short Texts with Questions or Graphic Organizers

You can do this with any short passage you are using in class. I don’t do this with every passage we read, or even every skill. I pick and choose what I think would be most beneficial for the kids to keep at their finger tips. I find it especially helpful in modeling how to use text evidence to support their answers.

 

 

example graphic organizers-min

Practicing Skills/Strategies in Authentic Text

Have students practice the skills and strategies taught during your mini lessons while they read independently. Including a graphic organizer that you’ve used during instruction in your interactive notebook provides practice and gives students a reference for the skill/strategy. Recording their thinking in a graphic organizer while reading a text of their choice helps students understand how to employ these skills and strategies in their regular reading.

 

 

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Sorting Activities

Sorts are great for helping students understand academic vocabulary. Have them practice identifying and distinguishing between categories such as first vs. third person point of view or fact vs. opinion.

 

MAKE SURE IT’S USEFUL

Keep the cute to crap ratio in mind at all times. A quality interactive notebook is a valuable tool in the classroom and shouldn’t become an art project that doesn’t add to your students’ understanding or full of cutesy, pointless clip art that has nothing to do with the targeted skill or. An interactive notebook page needs to do one of the following for it to be worth the time:

  • The page itself is an activity that requires your students to use the targeted skill/strategy to complete it.
  • The student fills in minimal blanks to create a small anchor chart for the skill/strategy that can be referenced later.
  • The page serves as a tool for introducing or reinforcing a lesson that you are teaching.

Don’t waste your time with a resource if it doesn’t serve one of those purposes.  Instead, find something that fits your purpose, engages your students, and adds to the lesson.

 

DON’T WRITE A NOVEL

If students are just copying what you write the entire time, they are not fully engaged in the discussion about the skill/strategy.  They may not be paying attention at all.  Think about how much you want your students to write ahead of time.  You know your students and you know what is appropriate for their level(s).  Keep in mind that what is appropriate for some may not be appropriate for others and modify as needed.  Interactive notebooks are easy to modify ahead of time by writing, outlining, or cutting a few things before passing it out.

 

KEEP IT ORGANIZED

parking lot and table of contents-min

Years ago, one of my incredible teammates showed me an amazing, yet simple trick for keeping interactive notebook materials organized.  I was having an issue with students losing small pieces that they didn’t have time to glue down (or that they weren’t supposed to cut yet – see tip #1), so she introduced me to the “parking lot.”  It’s simple enough to have the kids create when they are setting up their interactive notebooks and it has saved me time and time again.  All it takes is a regular envelope and a glue stick!  Just glue the back of an envelope to the inside cover of the notebook.  Make sure the kids don’t seal the envelope.  This way all the items that have been cut, but don’t have a home yet can be safely stored in this little pocket.

USE IT AS A REFERENCE!

An interactive notebook is as useful as you allow it to be.  If you are allowing time to create them, consider allowing time to reference them.  Students get excited when they can use a tool that they created to find an answer.  Plus, the more times they see it, the more likely they will remember it.  My students love using the glossary in our poetry notebooks and the charts in our reading notebooks to help them answer questions during reading workshop.  They know that if I see them take out their notebooks after I ask a question I will allow enough wait time for them to find the answer on their own.  I love seeing students light up when they find their own answers!

Other great times to allow students to reference their notebooks are during review games at the end of a unit, group projects, or independent reading.  I have reading response menus for my students to use during independent reading, so I like for them to brush up on the skill/strategy of their response choice before writing their responses.  I find that they interact with the text on a deeper level and I get much more thorough responses this way.

Like the reading interactive notebook pages shown in the pictures? You can find the entire Reading Interactive Notebook by clicking here!

You can also find interactive notebook pages for specific skills & strategies here.

 

6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Interactive Notebook