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Monday, July 29, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 5

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Language 5 (CCRA.L.5) states: "Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings." At the third grade level, students explore the difference between literal and nonliteral meanings, connections between words and their use, and "shades of meaning among related words." Instruction then shifts. Expectations for fourth and fifth graders include interpreting figurative language; explaining common idioms, adages, and proverbs; and using word relationships to more fully understand word meanings.

Figurative Language

YouTube gives us some great opportunities for introducing figurative language. Check out this figurative language rap (3:00).  Or, if you want to give your students a high level introduction, try this video on Figurative Language (3:42). You'll also find many student-created videos featuring popular music, but watch out for content that may not be appropriate for your grade level (as well as spelling errors).

To reinforce these literary devices, try a few activities from Teachers pay Teachers. Reflective Teacher offers  Plans and Engaging Activities for Teaching Simile and Interactive PowerPoint with Teaching Notes to Teach Simile. Featured in the TpT Common Core eBook,  Figurative Language Stories for Close Reading is a freebie from Lovin Lit.


Seeing figurative language in literature really drives it home. Paddle-to-the-Sea, The Cat Who Went to Heaven, and Call It Courage are filled with similes, metaphors, personification, and onomatopoeia. ReadWriteThink gives a more complete list in Suggested Books with Figurative Language, and Teaching with Kids' Books suggests books to use to teach idioms.

For the grand finale, try one or more of these writing projects with your students:

  • Start simple. Give each student a picture (can be clip art, taken from magazines, etc.) and ask him/her to write a simile or metaphor about the picture. Mount picture and figurative language; display.
  • Use Spice Up Your Poetry with Figurative Language by Kechia Williams for Scholastic.
  • Infuse descriptions with personification. "Personification of a Tree" is a fun fall writing project. Each student chooses a specific type and size of tree then describes it using human traits. (Add drawings with sponged leaves, if desired.)
  • Move on to proverbs and adages with Paragraphs and Pigs: Teaching Paragraph Writing with Humor from Reflective Thinker.
  • And, my personal favorite, explore proverbs as the basis for writing fables.

Word Relationships and Nuances

Analogies provide great opportunities to explore word relationships with your students. You can find plenty of analogy worksheets at englishforeveryone.org. Better yet, have kids write their own!

If you're up for a real challenge, sign up for WordMasters. This vocabulary contest is analogy-based. Three times each year, you will receive a list of 25 words. After in-depth exploration of the denotation and connotation of these words, students take an analogy-based test. The ten highest scores are totaled and sent to WordMasters. I've been involved in this contest for nearly three decades and can honestly attest to its rigor.

That's enough for today on words and their nuances. Have a good great wonderful fabulous fantastic spectacular day!