How To Teach Your Children To Pass A Reading Test: Vocabulary

Children can pass reading tests by learning how to identify and define unknown vocabulary words in a sentence.  Children learn figure out new words in a sentence by using context clues.

Context Clues

Using Context clues is learning how to answer a vocabulary question by identifying the clues or hints surrounding the new word.   The hints can appear in the same sentence or in the sentence proceeding or after the same sentence using the new vocabulary word. For example, Young trees have weak limbs that can break easily.  Like young trees, vulnerable children need lots of love and tender care.  As you can see, your child can define the word vulnerable by reading the sentence before the one using the word .  The reader can assume the word vulnerable means, weak or easily breakable.

Using Analogies

Context clues can appear in a sentence as analogies or comparisons. For example, in this sentence a child should be able to understand the word vulnerable by reading this sentence.

Vulnerable children are like weak flowers in need of care and attention.  The reader can assume that the word vulnerable is like a weak flower, therefore, weak.

Using Antonyms/Opposites

Context clues can also appear as opposites in a sentence.  For example, vulnerable children, unlike strong branches that do not bend, tend to be the target of bullies. Your child can understand that the word vulnerable means the opposite of (or unlike) strong, so therefore weak, or not strong. 

Using an example

Child can learn context clues by reading sentences that give examples. Vulnerable children, such as weak branches of a tree, can break easily with harmful words. The reader can understand that the word vulnerable is like a weak branch of tree and breakable.

Using Synonyms/ Like words

Children can also learn context hints by reading a sentence that gives the reader similar words.  When children are vulnerable or weak, they want to protect themselves from mean people. Hence, the word vulnerable means weak.

Using Explanations

Context clues can sometimes appear as definitions written within the sentence.  Vulnerable children are weak souls that need protection from mean people. In this example the meaning is clear.  Vulnerable means weak.

These are several ways to teach your children to use context clues to find the meaning of a new word. Teach your children these strategies and they should be able to understand the meaning of a new word in any sentence.  This will enable your child to answer correctly several vocabulary questions on a reading test.

In this sentence the word vulnerablemeans

  1. Strong
  2. Happy
  3. Weak

If you teach your child how to use these context clues your child should pick answer C with no hesitation

L. Hughes-Page, M.Ed.


L. Hughes Page is a Field Supervisor to student teachers in the Graduate Department of Education at Gwynedd Mercy University.