Our Favorite 3 Free* Tools for Vocabulary Learning – Context Clues

Common Core State Standards: 
Foundational Skills
Informational Text
Instructional Strategies: 
Context Clues

Good readers automatically use a number of strategies when they encounter unfamiliar words, including the use of context clues. For students who struggle with reading, these strategies may not come as readily and they need direct and explicit instruction in how and when to apply these strategies in their reading. Visit our Context Clues Instructional Strategy Guide for more information on teaching strategies to help students use Context Clues.

Learning how to approach unknown words is a critical skill for developing readers, and directly aligns with the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

Embedded technology supports, online dictionaries, visual dictionaries, and multimedia elements can all be great ways to help students build vocabulary, background knowledge, and apply strategies for tackling unfamiliar words. Check out our list below of three of our favorite tools, or visit our Pinterest page for more ideas!

  1. Read & Write for Google (FREE; paid versions available – now offered Free for teachers)
    • Browser add-in for PC, Mac, Chromebooks
    • Create accessible Google Docs
    • Built-in supports include text-to-speech, illustrated dictionaries, word prediction, highlighting and note-taking supports
  2. WordHippo (FREE)
    • Free online dictionary with a twist – search for word meanings, similar words, opposite words, rhyming words and example sentences.
    • Great tool for playing with and exploring word meanings
  3. Visual Thesaurus Vocab Grabber (FREE; paid subscription to use Visual Thesaurus)
    • A free tool offered by Visual Thesaurus for analyzing words in context
    • Paste in any text and see a list of useful vocabulary broken down by content area; click any word to see definitions and word maps

Want more ideas? Check out our Pinterest page!: Follow PowerUp WHAT WORKS's board Context Clues on Pinterest. 

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