Shades of Meaning Lesson Plan

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.

Just as colors come in different shades and levels of intensity, so do words. In this lesson, students will learn about shades of meaning and complete an activity allowing them to practice arranging words according to their levels of intensity.

Learning Objectives

By the conclusion of this lesson, students will:

  • Explain shades of meaning
  • Create a display that demonstrates shades of meaning


45-60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.


Distinguish shades of meaning among closely related verbs (e.g., toss, throw, hurl) and closely related adjectives (e.g., thin, slender, skinny, scrawny).


  • Printed copies of the lesson Distinguishing Shades of Meaning: Lesson for Kids (one for each student, one for the teacher)
  • Access to the quiz
  • Several paint swatches that each show one color in multiple shades arranged from lightest to darkest (one per student)
  • Markers (Sharpies are recommended)
  • Writing paper
  • Pencils


  • Begin by discussing the idea of synonyms. Talk about several different words and have students help think of synonyms for each word.
  • Next, mention the words happy and overjoyed. Ask students which word sounds stronger and why.
  • Give another example. Mention the words big and grandiose, and talk about which sounds stronger.
  • Now give each student a printed copy of the lesson transcript.
  • Read through the lesson together, alternating reading sections.
  • Then discuss:
    • What are shades of meaning?
    • What are some examples of shades of meaning for feeling?
    • What are some examples of shades of meaning for thinking?
    • What other examples of shades of meaning can you think of?
    • How do we know how to arrange words when talking about shades of meaning?
  • Check for understanding by administering the quiz.


To reinforce learning, guide students through the following activity.

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