Connotations vs. Denotations: Building Meaning of Words in Informational Text

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SWBAT determine the connotation and technical meanings of words and its impact on the meaning and tone of a piece of literature.

Big Idea

Enticing denotations and meanings of words through ice cream cones!

Warm Up: Drawing a Photo

7 minutes

Why use ice cream cones to teach the associations of words? When I think of ice cream my thoughts go to the flavorful scoops and toppings that make this eating experience enjoyable yet sinful in nature. In past years, I have used different organizers such as word webs and the Frayer Model to gauge students’ interest in understanding the parts of words. While students completed these activities successfully, the redundancy of using the same model resulted in students’ disengagement in the activity and restricted the types of information students used in these graphic organizers.

I am always looking for new ways to introduce vocabulary in my classroom. With the organization of each ice cream scoop, I am able to control what information students place on the cone. On the cone, students write the vocabulary word and its part of speech. Then, each scoop contains a definition, affix, and  synonym. Check out my Explanation of Ice Cream Cone Template video to see how this ice cream cone looks on paper! What I love about the ice cream cones is the creativity that students use to produce their work. Additionally, I can add and subtract scoops to each cone without changing its intended purpose.

Prior to defining the sections of each cone, I hook students in this ice cream cone illusion by asking them to draw an ice cream cone with scoops. Here's a Student Product to see!

Building Knowledge: Note-taking

5 minutes

At this time in the lesson, students need to understand how the words “connotation” and “denotation” are similar in context. Instead of teaching this concept to students, I chose to use a song that will help them remember what is involved when looking for the connotative or denotative meaning of words.

I find that music helps students retain information in a musical fashion. As students recall what was taught, they sing or reference the song to show their recollection of the taught material. Students will watch the video and take notes on the meanings and processes involved in discovering the associated meanings of words. Due to the song having repeated refrains and a chorus, students can easily follow along and take notes in their notebooks. Here is a sample, Connotation VS Denotation, that was written in students' notebooks!

Independent Practice: Students working with article vocabualry words

35 minutes

How does understanding connotation and denotation lead students to understanding how to read a complex level of text? With the understanding of both the literal and associated meanings of words, students can rely on the clues in context to define unfamiliar words. Even locating the affixes added to words can aid students in understanding the basic word or root word in a sentence.

In this part of the lesson, students will take their definition of words from William Bradford or Mayflower Compact articles and complete an Ice Cream Cone Template for each word selected in the article. Students will work in groups of 4 to locate the synonyms and affixes of each word. Since this is the first time students are completing these cones, I will allow them to choose their own words from the article. I will provide reference books such as a dictionary and thesaurus for students to use in the activity.

From the interaction that students have with literary text, it is known that many students struggle with vocabulary yet do not have an understanding of how to beginning defining unfamiliar terms. With this introductory lesson to vocabulary, students learn that word parts and associated words play an intricate part in establishing an identity for various words used in our English language.

So why are student defining vocabulary words this early in the school year? With the reliance on informational text in our units, students will come across text-dependent vocabulary words and phrases the are unknown or unrecognizable to their daily speech. Because many students struggled with vocabulary found in each informational article, I thought to introduce simple strategies to help students define words with or without the use of a reference material.