How NOT to Teach Reading: Context Clues

I Guess Not!

Part Ten of a 12-part video series showing the flaws of common word reading strategies taught in schools– Moral: Do not teach struggling readers to guess!


Context CluesSkippy Frog

This strategy encourages a child to skip reading an unknown word and guess at it, based on context. A child is told to keep reading the sentence and, at the end, go back and guess what the unknown word might be. This approach not only encourages guessing, which research has shown rarely results in the child saying the correct word, but is also bound to disrupt fluency since the sentence has to be read and then re-read.

Rather than using context to guess at words, in Structured Literacy readers are encouraged to decode unfamiliar words. The reader’s mental resources can then be freed to use context to comprehend shades of meaning and to make inferences.

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Jennifer Salisbury

In 2004, Jennifer joined Teach for America as a special educator where she taught kindergarten through fifth grade. Her passion for reading instruction led her to be trained in a program based on the Orton-Gillingham method. After achieving significant results with her students, she began conducting trainings to help strengthen other teachers’ reading instruction. “My motivation as a teacher is to share my love of learning, and my gift has been working with struggling readers. There is no better feeling than to help someone become a strong reader and independent learner.” Jennifer earned a B.A. in Global studies University of California Santa Barbara and M.S. in Special Education from Lehman College.