I chose a short passage from The Secret Garden by Francis Hogsdon Burnett found on this web site. I created multiple choice questions using probable unknown words in the passage. I bolded the words to direct students’ attention to them. I purposely included answer choices that matched words found near the bolded word, but would not make sense when substituted for the bold word. I did this to assess whether or not students were following the steps taught when using context clues to ensure the word made sense when substituted for the unknown word rather than simply relying on matching words in the text (that may not make sense). For example, for the sentence ‘Her mother had been a great beauty who cared only to go to parties and amuse herself,’ I included the answer choice party. It sounds like her mother likes to do fun things. Party is a fun thing to do, but to party herself would not make sense. Entertain would be the correct answer.
We had been working on context clues for a week. It took students a while to grasp the concept, but they caught on by day three. We worked on the concept each day using the text, Sarah, Plain and Tall. I was confident they were ready to be assessed by the end of the week. They did not disappoint. Most students scored 80% or higher.
I also included a question for review. I asked students how many paragraphs were in the passage. Questions about such text features will be included on the year-end assessment, so I wanted to be sure students remembered this feature.