Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Quick and Sticky Context Clues

Liz West


This lesson shows students how to use beginning sounds and context clues to determine what an unknown word is.


The student uses sound/symbol relationships as visual cues for decoding.

The student uses beginning letters (onsets) and patterns (rhymes) as visual cues for decoding.

The student uses context clues to construct meaning (meaning cues) (for example, illustrations, knowledge of the story and topic).


-Chart paper
-Current story
-Post-it notes


1. Review the current story before preparing your chart paper.
2. Write on chart paper several sentences from the current story that have words that may be challenging to your students.
3. Cover the difficult words up with a sticky note.
4. Prepare a student book with sticky notes in various places for assessment.


1. Tell students that they will begin reading a new story this week. Draw on students' experiences that would relate to the current story. Some examples of questions might be: Have you ever had this kind of experience? What do you already know about this subject?

2. After a brief discussion, ask the students if they know what they can do when they get to a word in a story that they do not know. Tell them that when they want to read about a new subject or something that interests them, they need to know what to do to figure out an unknown word.

3. Encourage answers and write down student responses on chart paper.

4. Explain to students that you will be showing them a way to figure out a new or difficult word by using two different strategies.

5. On the teacher prepared chart paper, explain to students that the sentences on the chart were taken from the story they are about to begin reading. The words that are covered with sticky notes are words that they may have trouble decifering.

6. Read the first sentence to the class, omitting the word that is covered with the sticky note. Ask the children if they know what that word might be. Elicit student responses. For example, if the sentence is -Frog and Toad were eating delicious flies for dinner,- and the word delicious was covered.

7. Next, show the students only the beginning letter of the word. Then, ask the question again. -Now, what do you think the word might be?- When a student has correctly guessed the word, ask how they know the word wasn't something else.

8. At this point, I ask my students -How did you know the word wasn't...?- Then, use a word with the same beginning sound but a word that would not make sense. Example, -How did you know the word wasn't dog?- Wait for students to respond with the answer that dog doesn't make sense. Next,ask the students -How did you know the word wasn't...?- Then, use a word that makes sense but has the wrong beginning sounds. Example, -How did you know the word wasn't yummy?- Wait for the students to respond with the answer that it has the wrong beginning sounds. Continue to do this with several sentences until students understand how it works.

9. Once students understand the process, assess each child individually with a student book already marked with sticky notes and ask the same questions that were asked during whole group instruction.This lesson can be used with any story and is something I do each week.


Students will be assessed individually, through the same technique that was done in whole group instruction. Using the same story, have a student copy of the story already marked with 10 sticky notes. Ask the child one question about each word that is covered. -How did you know it wasn't _____?- The child should respond with the fact that the word doesn't make sense or that the word has the wrong sounds. The following assessment is for not only knowing the covered word, but also being able to explain why it wasn't another word.
E - 9 - 10 questions answered correctly
S - 7 - 8 questions answered correctly
N - 5 - 6 questions answered correctly
U - anything below 5 questions answered correctlyStudents who score below 7 points will need additional practice and feedback.

Use this same criteria as listed above for assessing Goal 3 Standard1, Information Managers
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