The ability to identify and use shades of meaning in texts and in writing creates stronger readers and writers. The lesson uses the example of shades of color to help students understand shades of meaning in words. Your students will grasp the subtleties of language more effectively and be aware of the nuance that authors create with their word choice after this lesson. By laying this foundation of awareness, students will become more skillful and selective in their own word choice as they write and communicate.
Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction:
- Ask the children if the items are the same color. Some will say yes, they are both blue, but some will say no, because they are not exactly the same. At this point, introduce the term “shade”, but telling the children they are all correct. Say, “These items are the same color- blue, but they are different shades. That means they are in the same color family, but they have a difference. One is lighter, or weaker in color, one is deeper, or stronger in color.
- State, “Did you know words come in different shades?” Wait for responses. Clarify, “Words have meanings. The meaning of the word helps you understand what the word describes or explains. But some words in the same family can be stronger or weaker. For example, what if I told you I was frustrated? How would I be feeling?” Call on students to tell you their definition. Say, “Now what if I told you I was furious? Both terms can mean upset or angry, but one means just a little bit upset, and one means incredibly upset!
- Write the word “nice” on the board in the center of a circle. Draw lines from the circle to create a word web. Explain that the term nice is not a very strong word to describe someone or something. It would be a light shade, like the light blue item used in the warm up. Say, “Let’s find some other words in the word family, and then we’ll organize them by shade, from lightest to strongest.
- Have students volunteer words that are synonyms of nice, such as kind, generous, sweet, helpful, pleasant, considerate, etc.
- Repeat the process in step four and five using the word “Bad”, having students volunteer words like naughty, evil, horrible, terrible, mischievious, etc.
- Provide a large sheet of paper for the anchor chart and divide it down the middle. At the top write “Shades of Meaning”. Define the term underneath before the divided columns by writing “Shades of Meaning: Words in the same family/with the same basic meaning can be lighter/weaker or darker/stronger.” Underneath, label one column “Nice” and one column “Bad”. With the help of students create a ranked list, with the weakest words at the top and the strongest words at the bottom. If words are tied, such as “terrible/horrible” they can share a line on the paper. If possible, use shades of markers to write, using lighter shades for words with lighter meanings and heavier colors as you get to the end of the list.
- Read over the list in choral reading. Ask students if they think they could work with a partner to create a list like this using some other words they know. If they are hesitant, work through one more example with kids working as two teams. Most students will be ready to try it own their own with a partner. Introduce the classroom thesaurus or the online thesaurus at http://www.kidthesaurus.com/ as a resource to use if they can only think of a few words that belong in the word family. Explain they will not need it for the first activity since the word list is provided.
- Working with a partner, the kids will create a scaffolded ranking chart for two words on activity page one.
- Students will independently complete activity page two, and may need to use the thesaurus for one portion.
- Students will independently complete activity page two, and may need to use the thesaurus for one portion
Common Core State Standards:
Class Sessions (45 minutes): 2 class sessions.
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