How do readers understand context? If you really want to see what your students can do, try a simple cloze activity. Take 200 or so words from a text that you'll be reading together. Type that text, removing every 7th word. Then, ask students to read the text and fill in the missing words. What do they do? Watching the students and reading their responses is fascinating!
(If you don't want to type in the text, you can try this cloze generator tool. For more on cloze, read this article. If you'd like a cloze passage to try, write to me--I have several that go along with texts that I use.)
Being able to complete a cloze passage is all about understanding the context of words. As I teach about context, I know that I want students to understand the word context. I also want students to be able to generate the words to fill in blanks, like on a cloze assessment. But state tests are coming up, and I know that students will need to use context clues to answer synonym questions on the test.
That's a lot of instruction to remember! To help myself keep it all straight, I created this Powerpoint.