Response to Chapt. 9 of Gunning’s, Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties

Context clues or contextual analysis are a huge part in reading any kind of text. Gunning mentions that struggling or lower achieving readers struggle with contextual analysis more than others. According to him struggling readers can usually use context analysis successfully only 10 percent of the time (Gunning 316). This was disappointing for me to hear because using context clues can be very helpful when reading. I always used and still use context to help understand words I am not familiar with. There are many advantages to using context clues to help figure out an unknown word. First it makes you think about the text you are reading. It also helps because if you can figure out what the unknown word is while reading, then you do not have to stop reading in the middle of the text and go look up the word. If you can figure it out just by using the context you do not have to put the book and all your attention is still on the book. This factor helped me out a lot when I was a struggling reader because if put down the book to do something else I usually did not pick the book back up until I had to. Context clues do not just pertain to text either. Often younger students are going to be reading books that have pictures. Students can also use the pictures to help understand the word and the sentence. An example of this just happened in my field work the other day. A student I was reading with came across a word she did not know, barley. As soon as she finished the sentence she looked at me and asked what the word meant. I said, “Well let’s try and figure it out.” I asked her about what she had read before the sentence and what was happening when the word came up. She told me that kids were getting ready to feed the birds and then they grabbed the barley and threw it to the birds. She then said that barley must be food for the birds. Then she looked at the picture on the next page and it showed a bag labeled barley and had the kids throwing it out to the birds. She then said they look like seeds that the kids are feeding to the birds. From then on she understood what barley was and learned a new word. Using context clues is an intricate process for the mind. First you have to realize that you do not know the word. Then you must decide that you are going to use context to help figure out the word. Then you actually use context to try and come up with meanings to the unknown word. Then you use that to decide on a general meaning of the unknown word that makes sense with the text. Then you test the meaning of the word to verify that you came to the right conclusion. Using context clues is one of the useful techniques in my eyes and students should be pushed to use this technique more and more as they continue to read more difficult text.

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