Guessing Meaning From Context

By kylemawer  

Level: Upper intermediate+

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus: Guessing meaning from context

Game: Something Amiss

As an autonomous learner there are times when you come across a word that you don’t know and there’s nothing you can do but guess at the meaning. Maybe there is no-one to help you, no dictionary or online resource available or simply you skate over the moment either judging a deeper understanding of the language item not needed at all or that you understand enough.  Perhaps you can see what it is, the topic or situation contextualizes it or that the word looks or sounds like something encountered before.   This is one of the language learner skills that this activity develops a little.


Dictate these three questions in chunks as naturally as possible:

  1. What type of word is it? (verb, noun, adjective, etc)
  2. How do you say it?
  3. What do you think it means?

Tell your learners you are going to write some words on the board and they should ask and answer the questions about each word.  Then write these words on the board:

 shaft          loose          tile          grate          cable          socket

Learners ask and answer the three questions about the words you’ve written on the board for a few minutes.

Hand out the worksheet (download at the bottom of this post) and learners to look at exercise 1 and ask and answer the questions again.  Feedback and engage learners in discussing the meaning of the words.  If learners’ guesses are good enough move on to the next word but fill in gaps in meaning or provide clearer contexts or definitions.


  1. In the computer room ask learners to open two windows in a browser.
  2. They then open the game in one and the walkthrough in another.
  3. Learners complete exercise 2 with words from in the game or in the walkthrough.
  4. Encourage learners to use what they see and the context provided by the game play to help them discuss the words.
  5. Learners continue this activity until attention wanes.

Post play

  • Learners compare and discuss the words and the notes they compiled.
  • Learners feedback to the teacher.
  • Learners use a dictionary to check their words.
  • Learners continue the activity for homework making notes of a dozen more words.

Download Something Amiss worksheet






2 Trackbacks

  1. By | Digital Play on November 11, 2013 at 5:41 pm

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