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Teaching Connotation and Denotation


This week's focus was understanding the importance of diction and  the difference between the connotation and denotation of words,   I began by using an analogy.  I asked students to think about all of the shades of green.  They came up with: kelly green, neon green, forest green, emerald green, blue-green, lime green, sea green...You get the idea! I explained that much like the color "green" words have "shades" of meaning.  To be a better writer, it's important to pick the perfect "shade" of the word.  We also discussed the danger of relying on the thesaurus to find new words.  I struck gold last week when I found a clip from Friends to supplement this very idea!  Monica and Chandler want to adopt a baby and ask Rachel to write a letter of recommendation for them.  Joey is hurt that he was not asked, so Monica and Chandler agree that he can write one.  The results are hysterical because Joey relies on a thesaurus.  Let's just say that he describes the prospective parents as having big "aorta pumps" and signs it "Baby Kangaroo"! The kids loved it!

Later, students worked in pairs.  I filled envelopes with words that had the same general denotation but different connotations.  Students  sorted words from the most negative to positive connotation.  I liked this activity because students got to stand up to work and talk with each other.  I circulated around the room answering their questions.  For example, a few didn't know the meaning of irked or wrathful!  I enjoyed teaching them new words as they worked.

Next, students will apply this new knowledge to writing a six-word memoir.  Of course, I will be referring to connotation and diction throughout the entire year!















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