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

Test Prep

7 Fun Ways to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

7 Fun Ways to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

There’s no rule that says test prep has to be boring. I know it is tempting to just use the same old passages and worksheet that we’ve used year in and year out because they’ve worked for us and frankly, because it’s easy for us to prepare. I get it and I’ve been there. But the monotonous review of passage after passage or worksheet after worksheet left me feeling a little dead on the inside, and my students felt it too. That’s never good.

So, spice it up a little. There are so many ways to change up this boring routine to engage your students that require little to no effort, and you and your students deserve a little excitement during the day. After all, the more engaged they are, the better the review. Plus, there’s the added benefit that you won’t be bored to tears all day either. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Jazz Up Those Reading Passages

If you’re a reading teacher, there’s a good chance that your district requires you to use some reading passages in your test prep unit. Don’t worry, you can still make them engaging and fun.

Gallery Walk 

This one is so easy y’all. After you select a passage, decide which questions you want to focus on. Write those questions on separate sentence strips, pieces of chart paper, or construction paper and put them up around the room. Print out a copy of the passage for the number of questions you are using and display them next to each question. Then have your students move in groups discussing and answering their questions on the wall. When I do the gallery walk, I leave the questions open-ended and then go over them as multiple-choice questions. I feel like this gets them really thinking and prevents lazy guessing. I like to use post-its with an extra post-it on top to cover the answer, so each group gets a fresh start with each question. Once everyone has had a chance to answer the questions have them return to their seats and go over each one as a class. I really like this because it gets the students talking about the text evidence they used to justify their answers.

gallery walk test prep

Turn It into a Game 

This takes zero extra effort. Break your class into about 4 or 5 heterogeneous teams. If you already have group seating, this is already done for you. Have each team choose a name or assign them. Then, as you work through the passage as a class, have the teams confer about each question. When the team comes to a consensus on the correct answer, they shout their team name. Call on the first team to shout their name to answer and justify with text evidence and an explanation. Assign each question 100 points and award them to the teams as you work. At the end, the team with the highest amount of points wins. Even if they aren’t given an actual prize, the game makes the day so much more fun for them.

Using classroom buzzers can add to the novelty and fun of this game, but calling out team names works just as well and doesn’t break the bank.

Use Hands-On Answer Cards

As you work through the questions, each student shares his/her answer immediately by holding up a multiple choice answer card. When the lesson is over, each student holds onto his/her index cards to use the next time you want to do a passage this way. This not only engages every student, it also serves as a great informal assessment tool.

Here is a FREE copy of my multiple choice answer cards.

multiple choice answer cards

Don’t have time to print and copy the answer cards? No problem. Give the students each 2 index cards and tell them to cut them in half. Then the students write A, B, C, and D on the cards.

You can also use whiteboards for this purpose if you have enough.

Amp Up the Fun with Technology 

Technology is such a great tool for student engagement! Using it for games makes test prep so exciting for the kids. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend time during school hours playing a game?

Jeopardy

This is my favorite. I’m thinking you know how this game works, so I won’t waste your time explaining it to you. Instead, I’ll tell you what I love about it.  Jeopardy allows me and my students to review several different standards and offers a varying degree of rigor. It’s also crazy entertaining for the students. They get so excited about earning those dollar amounts and seeing their scores increase. I’ve actually had kids groan when class ended because they wanted to keep playing! Crazy, right?! Any time they’re that enthusiastic about something we’re doing in class is a HUGE win.

test prep jeopardy game

The example pictured above is a Jeopardy review game for the 3rd grade STAAR Reading Test and is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Kahoot!

Kahoot is so much fun to play. This one is easy and free to create and play but does require the students to have devices. (Just something to keep in mind and plan for.) I like Kahoot because I can create an interactive game with my own questions and answer choices, which means I’m targeting my specific students. It does, however, mean that I have to take the time to create my own questions and answer choices.

Get Creative with Your Task Cards

Task cards are a great resource year-round because you can use them is so many fun ways! That’s why I think they’re an excellent test prep tool in targeting a specific standard.

SCOOT Activity 

Place the task cards around the room or hallway and have your students “scoot” from one to the next. Simple, yet fun. They really enjoy being able to move around rather than sit at their desks all day.

Board Games with Task Cards 

Use a set of task cards with games like Connect 4, Jenga, and Candy Land. Set up the games around the room and have students play in groups. Game play stays the same, except that each student must complete a task card before he/she takes a turn. Super easy! Teaching with a Mountain View has a great post about it. Check it out here.

What Am I Leaving Out?

These aren’t the only ways to liven up test prep. How do you like to engage your students? We’re all in this together, remember? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Up Next: Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test?

 

Check Out the Rest of the Test Prep Blog Series Posts:

1. How to Navigate Test Prep Like a Pro

2. 7 Fun Ideas to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

3. Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test?

4. 6 Amazing Books to Help Students Conquer Test Anxiety

5. Testing Treats and Motivation

TEST Prep Jeopardy