Posted by: jockmackenzie | April 26, 2010

Context Clues #2

see note at the end of this entry re cartoonist Theresa McCracken

The word “context” is not one used by many middle school students. As I try to encourage them to use context clues, I try to instill an understanding of the term itself.

I have suggested, as I often do, that students break a word down into its syllables. Context becomes con + text. For the con part, I suggest that ‘con’ is a slang term for a ‘convict.’ A convict is a prisoner who is surrounded by high walls, barbed wire and guard towers. The key word is ‘surrounded.’ And these days ‘text’ is an easy word to define. Together then, ‘context’ becomes the surroundings of a message.

I have also tried to appeal to how students may have heard the term ‘context’ being used. Frequently, someone in the news will complain that his/her comments were taken ‘out of context.’ We discuss this in class to get examples. Students generally get the concept of one sentence being taken out of a longer conversation; they see that it can mean something different when not surrounded by what comes before and after.

And now for yet another exciting Context Clue exercise. (Just because these look like blackline masters that can be copied and run off as worksheets does not negate the option of doing them orally.)

Context Clue Exercise #2

Give the meaning of the underlined word, then the context clue you used to determine the meaning.


1. Why is your proboscis in the middle of your face?

________________________________ _______________________________

2. Pachyderms, more commonly known as elephants, are very large animals.

________________________________ _______________________________

3. Of all the wives I know, Jake’s spouse is the friendliest.

________________________________ _______________________________

4. The carnage on the highways is like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre all over again.

________________________________ _______________________________

5. The coach finally got fed up and angrily replied he would not stand for malingering – pretending to be sick – to get out of practice.

________________________________ _______________________________

6. Terrified, he realized that the enemy had surrounded his men, and there was no egress.

________________________________ _______________________________

7. “One minute they give me a license and the next minute they revoke it!” exclaimed the driver.

________________________________ _______________________________

8. Mr. Alexander usually shows no emotion whatsoever but last night at the parents’ meeting he gave a very fervid speech.

________________________________ _______________________________

9. The mayor of a town near Chicago died after several weeks of unrelenting hiccups. All of the medical specialists in Illinois had been unable to stop them, even for a short period, during those long weeks.

________________________________ _______________________________

10. Felix used to be so stubborn that he would never give in to anyone’s wishes but, since he’s been married to Bertha, he succumbs to all of her demands.

________________________________ _______________________________

For inquiring minds: I try to begin each blog entry with a picture. If I don’t have one of my own photos, I go to “free clip art” and always give credit to the source. For today’s entry I came across the McHumor site of cartoons drawn by Theresa McCracken. Further investigation led to my purchasing the prison cartoon for $7.50. PayPal made payment easy, Theresa sent a jpg and a gif the same day, and, I think, everyone’s happy. I encourage you to check out her site which is now a link on the sidebar. Enjoy!

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