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During my career as a teacher, I have noticed that students who depend on a dictionary too much are usually the students who learn the slowest. A dictionary can help you at certain times, especially if you have a good dictionary, but often there is a better way to learn new words. Instead of looking up every word in the dictionary, look for "context clues" to help you first. What are context clues? Context clues are information from a story that can help you understand words you don't know or words that you are not sure about.

The first thing you should do when reading is to keep the main ideas in mind. There is the main idea of the whole story, and then the main ideas of each part. If you are reading a sad story, then maybe some of the new words will be sad words. If you are reading a story about a hospital, maybe some of the new words are about medicine or diseases. This is just a start. As you read more, you can get information from the sentence in which a word appears. Sentence clues can be combined with your knowledge of word parts. For example, if a doctor says "The patient is now in stable condition. We will reevaluate her condition tomorrow", maybe you can guess that the patient is okay for now, but we're not sure about tomorrow. If you know that "re" at the beginning of a word means "again" and you also know the meaning of the word "value", then maybe you can guess "reevaluate" means to "say how good or bad the patient's condition is again".

As you do this more and more, it becomes easier. To help you get started, Teacher Joe has edited a story that can help you learn more vocabulary. Try reading the famous story by Mark Twain, The Million Pound Banknote and use the vocabulary on the side to help you. Try reading the story once while looking at the explanations and then read it again more quickly without looking. See how much more you understand the second time. You're on your way to learning vocabulary from context! Don't stop using your dictionary when you really need it, but try to read without a dictionary sometimes too.

Good luck!

Kung Fu Kitty!

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