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Using Context Clues to Find Meaning in The Lorax

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 9/11/2012

Dr. Seuss is famous for making up words in his stories. The Lorax is full of several of these made-up words. But readers can figure out what these words mean using context clues and illustrations. Dr. Seuss makes defining words with context clues fun.

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    Before reading The Lorax, ask students to pay attention to any words they hear that they do not recognize. When they hear unfamiliar words, they should raise their hands or give the thumbs-up signal. You can decide if you want to stop each time and record the word or just write them down after you finish reading.

    Explain to students that Dr. Seuss is famous for making up silly words in his books, and this book has some made-up words. Tell students that you will record these words and practice using context clues to figure out their meanings.

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    The Lesson

    1. Once you have your list of words on the board or on chart paper, you will work together as a class, using context clues, to define the first couple of words. Examples of words that should appear on your list from The Lorax are Grickle-grass, Lifted Lorax, Once-ler, Lerkim, miff-muffered moof, Snuvv, gruvvulous glove, and so on.
    2. Read the section of The Lorax again where the unknown word appears to students. Ask students if they have any idea what the word might mean. Allow students to use the illustrations to also give them clues. You might have to encourage students to make a guess or model for them how to make a guess. At first, they may be timid.
    3. If you model using context clues for students, pick a harder word(s) such as miff-muffered moof. The phrase that these silly words appear in is: "where he makes his own clothes out of miff-muffered moof." You might say something such as, "I know that he makes clothes out of this miff-muffered moof, so it has to be some kind of cloth or material." Then next to the words on the chart paper, write the definition, "Some kind of cloth or material for making clothes."
    4. Once students seem to understand using context clues in The Lorax to find the word definitions, divide them into small groups or pairs. Assign each group of students a few of the unknown words, and ask them to work together to find the definitions of the words.
    5. If this is one of the first few times that students have used context clues to figure out word meaning, then you may need to visit with each group and model the thought process for some of their harder word choices.
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    In Conclusion

    When student groups have finished using context clues to define words, you can meet with the class as a whole group. Students should report their definitions for the made-up words in The Lorax. Students can discuss if they feel these definitions make sense or if the section of the story needs to be read one more time to come up with the definition.