Shades of Meaning Activities

Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

Shades of meaning can be a difficult concept for young students to understand. In this lesson plan, students will be involved in a variety of different activities that will reinforce their understanding of shades of meaning.

Shades of Meaning

One of the best ways to help students understand the concept of shades of meaning is to engage them in activities that encourage use of multiple modalities. The following activities will encourage students to use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic skills as they work together to build their understanding of this concept. Each activity, intended for use with lower elementary students, is specifically designed to encourage active learning.

Circle of Synonyms

Materials: drawing paper, crayons or colored pencils, use of whiteboard or document camera

  • Begin with a brief review of synonyms. Talk about how synonyms are words that share the same or almost the same meaning.
  • On the board (or via document camera), write the word ''good'' and draw a circle around it.
  • Draw a larger circle around the word inside which you'll be able to write several more words.
  • Ask the class to think of some synonyms for ''good'' and begin writing them in the outer circle. Allow time for students to really think and try to include at least 8-10 words.
  • Take out three colors that represent three levels of intensity (for example yellow, orange, red or light blue, blue, navy blue).
  • Ask students to think about the words that have been written in the outer circle and categorize them, in their minds, according to levels of intensity.
  • Go through and circle all the words according to their shades of meaning. Circle low intensity words with the lightest color. Circle the medium intensity words with the middle color. Circle the highest intensity words in the darkest color.
  • Next, put students into groups of 3-4.
  • Give each group drawing paper and have them take out three colors of crayons or colored pencils (again, in three different levels of intensity).
  • Assign each group a word to work with and ask them to repeat the same process that was demonstrated on the board including brainstorming synonyms and circling the words according to their shades of meaning. Consider using words that have several synonyms, such as:
    • run
    • pretty
    • big
    • little
    • start
    • old
    • fast
    • happy

Ladder of Meaning

Materials: popsicle sticks, glue, construction paper, markers, writing paper

  • Review the concept of shades of meaning with students.
  • Give each student 4 popsicle sticks, writing paper, and markers
  • Assign each student a word and have them come up with synonyms for that word (writing them on the paper). Consider words such as those mentioned in the ''Circle of Synonyms'' activity or think of some original words that have multiple synonyms.
  • Once students have written down synonyms for their words, have them choose four words and write them on the popsicle sticks (one word per stick).
  • Next, give students construction paper and glue.
  • Have students glue their popsicle sticks on the construction paper according to their shades of meaning. Ask them to arrange them so that they look like a ladder going up the page.
  • Allow time for students to use markers to draw in the rest of the ladder picture and maybe even create a picture around it.

Line 'Em Up!

Materials: construction paper, markers

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