Skip to main content

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!















Popular posts from this blog

Oreos in China and Read 180

A few years ago I read an article about what happened when Kraft introduced the Oreo to the Chinese in 1996.  It was not a success.  The Chinese thought the filling was too sweet-the cookie too bitter.  Kraft almost pulled the beloved cookie off the shelves. Instead, they began a quest to find out how to make the Oreo appeal to the Chinese. Enter the green tea Oreo, the mango Oreo, and an Oreo in the shape of a straw (not sure that still qualifies as an Oreo).  The revamped Oreos were a huge success! I found the article fascinating and decided to design a lesson around  it to share with my students.

First I showed them a news clip from CNN about the topic. Then, I taught them a few vocabulary words that appear in the article using Kate Kinsella's method.  Next, we read the article together and marked the text. I did a think aloud as I read aloud to them.  After that, students created a T-Chart listing the ten most important words in the text, as well as five main ideas from the tex…

Bottle Flipping

Last week someone posted article on Facebook about the newest trend with middle schoolers-bottle flipping.  If you haven't heard of it, you probably don't teach middle school or have a child in middle school! Consider  yourself lucky! If you know about it, then you also know it's annoying as heck.  Kids (usually boys), toss a partially filled water bottle into the air so that it flips in midair.  The goal is to have the bottle land upright.  This year I have had to ask several students to put their water bottles away because they wanted to flip them.  I know,  I'm mean!  



After reading the Facebook article I thought, "Hey!  I bet I can incorporate this into a lesson somehow."  Using my Oreo lesson as a model, that's just what I did.  First, I found two different articles about bottle flipping.  I went through both looking for key vocabulary words.  I then typed out the sentences with the words and created an activity where students had to guess the definit…

How to Train, Tame, and Enjoy a Seventh-Grader

I remember when my oldest son went to middle school.  I was a mess.  I was so anxious about whether he'd like his teachers, make friends, and be able to handle all of the work.  I think I was one of those parents that drive teachers crazy. No, I WAS one of those parents. I emailed teachers with questions that I could have asked my son (even when I asked him, I didn't trust his answer).  I checked his grades every day.  I constantly asked him whether or not he was caught up on homework. I asked him who he ate lunch with. If he didn't like a teacher, I wanted him transferred to another class.   If he messed up, I wanted to fix it.  If he didn't turn in an assignment on time, I wanted the teacher to let him turn it in late.  If he forgot his lunch, I wanted my husband to bring it to him (thankfully he refused). If he wasn't starting his homework when I thought he should,  I was practically putting the pencil in his hand and opening the textbook. In other words, I was …