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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Conversations on Connotation

Conversations on connotation have begun in my fourth grade class. I'm making a concerted effort to discuss vocabulary in a variety of ways every day.

The main objective of yesterday's reading lesson was to identify elements of fables, but we diverted our attention to vocabulary for a few short minutes.

Part 1: Specific Verbs

Teacher: What is the meaning of perched in this text?

Unsuspecting Student: To sit on a branch.

Teacher: Like a pig?

Students: Haha! What?

Teacher: Does the word perched mean to sit on a branch like a pig would sit on a branch?

Student: Haha. No. It means like a bird sits on a branch.

Teacher: So what exactly does perch mean?

Conversation continued until the class established that perched means "stood on a branch with feet wrapped around it" in this passage, as well as the fact that it's used only for some types of birds (not ducks or penguins, for example). We discussed the importance of using specific verbs in their own writing.

Part 2: More Specific Verbs

We focused on words that mean "walk," such as "roam" and "saunter" in this text. Although we didn't stop for long on this, one day in the future we will actually practice walking in different ways, such as strutting, gliding, stomping, marching, and many other forms of walking. Again, this helps kids see the importance of choosing specific verbs.

Part 3: Connotation

Denotation is definition; connotation is how a word feels. To truly understand a word, you must know what it means, as well as how positive or negative it feels. We looked at the remaining highlighted words on the page (beautiful, attractive, comely, magnificent, and lovely) and determined that they all meant "pretty." I drew a continuum on the board and asked them to help me arrange the words by their degree of "prettiness." It turned out like this:

Taking ten minutes to discuss vocabulary in any subject area can really pay off. I'm trying to squeeze it in wherever I can this year.

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