Perspectives from the Field: Professional Development on Context Clues

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

Laurie Lee, , is an Exceptional Children's Program Specialist in the Rowan Salisbury Schools in North Carolina. She supports special education teachers in the areas of instruction and compliance.  Additionally, she provides professional development to special education and general education teachers as a certified Reading Foundations trainer for the Exceptional Children's Division of the NC Department of Public Instruction.  She is also a Keys to Literacy Level 1 Trainer for Keys to Comprehension (Primary and 4-12).

Kristin D. Sinclair,, is an Instructional Coordinator in the Department of Exceptional Children of the Rowan-Salisbury School System in North Carolina.  Her primary responsibilities include supporting Exceptional Children’s (EC) programming (pre-K through high school); working with outside agencies; and collaborating with other departments to coordinate and present professional development in reading, behavior management, autism, assistive technology, inclusive practices, compliance, adaptive curriculum, and the common core/essential standards. She is a member of the district’s literacy team that helps to develop and rollout professional development on the new literacy framework.  In addition, she oversees grants and conduct fidelity checks to ensure appropriate implementation of research-based direct instruction programs while compiling data to monitor student progress.

This is their first guest appearance on the Tech Matters Blog.

Professional Development on Context Clues

Our Rowan-Salisbury School District in North Carolina is implementing a 1:1 digital learning model with a strong focus on addressing literacy skills across all grade levels and content areas.  We had the opportunity to conduct a professional development session for K-12 district personnel at the start of a school curriculum conference.  

Participants were excited to receive introductions to free resources, including PowerUp WHAT WORKS ( We shared information about how to explicitly teach the six types of context clues that are listed in the PowerUp Instructional Strategy Guide titled, Context Clues (/strategy-guide/context-clues).


  1. Root word and affix: People who study birds are experts in ornithology.
  2. Contrast: Unlike mammals, birds incubate their eggs outside their bodies.
  3. Logic:  Birds are always on the lookout for predators that might harm their young.
  4. Definition: Frugivorous birds prefer eating fruit to any other kind of food.
  5. Example or Illustration: Some birds like to build their nests in inconspicuous spots—high up in the tops of trees, well hidden by leaves.
  6. Grammar: Many birds migrate twice each year.

Of particular interest were the two technology tools, “Read and Write for Google” and “Vocab Grabber.” They are both easy to use with varied texts.  We learned about these tools during a webinar sponsored by a PowerUp WHAT WORKS and Keys to Literacy last June (See below).

In addition, the two handouts we distributed about context clues were very valuable in raising teacher awareness of the importance of explicit instruction.

As part of our district’s strategic literacy plan, we will have the opportunity to share this information with building-level instructional coaches who are in an excellent position to provide support to teachers in their schools in the areas of literacy and how technology supports student learning.

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