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Teacher Tips and Answers

Understanding Vocabulary

When you read an unfamiliar word, you need to figure out its meaning based on how it is used. You can use the following context clues to guess a meaning.

Word parts let you assemble meaning from prefixes, suffixes, and roots.

Joshua tended to isolate himself, a habit strongly correlated with his bouts of paranoia.

(The prefix co means “together,” the prefix re means “again,” the root late means "bring," or "bear," and the suffix ed indicates past tense, so correlated must mean “having brought two things together again.")

Cause-and-effect clues let you infer meaning.

Gabrielle kept her nose buried in the novel, her mind wandering the lush lowlands of Scotland beside burly Haemish, claymore at his back, ready for brigands.

(If the burly Scotsman Haemish carries a claymore on his back to deal with brigands, a claymore must be a large weapon—perhaps a sword.)

Definitions embedded within the text spell out the meaning.

Jon was born on a military base and would die on one, a lifer, but for me, the Army was a means to a much bigger end.

(Since "Jon was born on a military base and would die on one," a lifer must be "a person who spends a lifetime in a given activity.")

A series includes an unknown word with known words of the same type.

He bore himself with the condescending, self-righteous, and supercilious air of a child who has willfully abandoned belief in the Easter Bunny.

(Since supercilious is in a series with condescending and self-righteous, it must mean believing oneself to be superior to others.)

Examples provide specific instances of general ideas.

Doctor Grant pointed to a chart of theropods, ranging from T-rexes to sparrows.

(T-rexes were large, carnivorous dinosaurs on two legs, and sparrows are small birds on two legs, so theropods must be a wide classification of two-legged animals that spans dinosaurs and modern birds.)

Synonyms have the same meaning as the unfamiliar word.

Rudy knew his opinions often caused his friends offense or even umbrage, but he voiced them anyway.

(Umbrage must mean "strong offense.")

Antonyms have the opposite meaning as an unfamiliar word.

This would not be conventional war, with two well-trained armies on a gridiron approved by the Geneva Convention; this would be asymmetric war between an army and secret foes with improvised explosives on city streets.

(As the opposite of "conventional war," asymmetric war must mean "a regular army fighting guerillas.")

Tone reveals the writer’s thoughts about a word.

As much as his dinners delighted him, he savored even more his routine repose on the couch afterward.

(The words delighted and savored show pleasure, so repose on the couch must mean a "pleasurable rest.")

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