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Unfamiliar Vocabulary

One of the main reasons college students dislike reading is because the difficulty in understanding what it is they readprimarily because of unfamiliar vocabulary.

If we cant understand what we read, then we cant engage with the reading.
The result is that we simply read the words on the page without understanding what it is we are reading.

How would you feel if you were side-lined from a game because you didnt know the rules of the game?

How would you feel if you didnt understand the words being spoken in a room where people were talking?

Vocabulary in Context

How do you usually find out what a word means? Vocabulary put into context, simply means to understand what word means by understanding its context. Context refers to the words surrounding it the unfamiliar vocabulary word, which provide clues to the words meaning.


acronym [ak-ruh-nim] noun - a word formed from

the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words

Rather than looking in a dictionary, a reader can save the time searching for a word, simply by using for contextual clues to determine what a word means. S-A-G-E is an acronym for the S - synonym four most common contextual A - antonym clues. G - general sense E - example

synonym [sin-uh-nim] Noun- a word having the same or


nearly the same meaning as another in the language, as

joyful, elated, glad.

The meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words may be understood by other similar words in the sentence or sentences around it. Example: If we assess ourselves favorably, our selfesteem will be high, but if we judge ourselves negatively, it will suffer.


antonym [an-tuh-nim] noun- a word opposite in

meaning to another.

The meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words may be understood by other dissimilar words in the sentence or sentences around it. Example: Religions in America are not static, but changing, especially in this period of shifting values.

G-ENERAL Sense of the Word

The meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words may be understood by the general sense of the word and the sentence containing itby other sentences around it. Example: A former employee, irate over having been fired, broke into the plant and deliberately wrecked several machines.


The meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words may be understood by an example given by the author, either in the sentence containing the vocabulary word or in a sentence near it. Many textbook authors make use of this context clue.

Transitions like for example, for instance, including and such as often introduce examples.


Nocturnal creatures, such as bats and owls, have

highly developed senses that enable them to function in the dark.

Quick Review (I)


Often, a reader can figure out the meaning of a new word without using the dictionaryby paying attention to the words ____.
In the sentences below, which type of context clue is used for the italicized word?
You cant take certain classes unless youve taken a prerequisite; for instance, you cant take Spanish Literature I unless youve taken Spanish III.


There are thick pine forest sat the foot of the mountain, but higher up, the trees become sparse.
Talent may take years to surface. When Beethoven was a young child, his great aptitude to music was not at all apparent to his teachers.

Quick Review (II)

Directions: Identify the vocabulary word and use the context clues to determine its meaning. 1. When people are broke, they find that many things which seem indispensable are not so necessary after all. 2. Its amazing that my neighbors always appear immaculate, yet their apartment is often quite dirty. 3. Doctors should alleviate the pain of terminally ill patients so that their final days are as comfortable as possible. 4. Rose thought selling cosmetics door-to-door would be a lucrative part-time job, but in her first month she earned only twenty dollars. 5. Working as a team, a coyote and a badger may simultaneously attack an area crowded with squirrels. The attack panics the squirrels, making them easier to catch.

On a Test

It may be helpful to try substituting the unfamiliar word with one that is more familiar. Example: The tiger was volatile; its behavior was extremely unpredictable. For instance, sometimes it was tame and other times it was vicious. unpredictable The tiger was _____________.

continued.On a Test

Furthermore, understanding your parts of speech will help you choose the right type of word to substitute. For instance, you would only substitute a noun for a noun, and a verb for a verbetc. The tiger was volatile (adjective). The tiger was unpredictable (adjective).