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Avalanche, Aztek, or Bravada? A Connotation Minilesson
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Minilesson|
|Estimated Time||50 minutes|
In designing a lesson to promote effective word choice in students' writing, the object is to start with something familiar. In this lesson, students start by discussing the associations they feel for car names from the 60s and 70s and analyze why those names were chosen. They then work in small groups on one of several possible activities, each exploring connotation in the context of car names.
Automobile Names Connotation Activities: This handout explains the choices for the culminating activity for the lesson.
What Does the Word Chicken Mean in these Titles?: This reproducible shows a variety of book covers featuring "chicken" in some way. This provides an excellent jumping off point for a discussion of connotation.
In designing an activity that encourages students to use language effectively, you need to begin with ideas and elements that are familiar to students. Cognitive psychologists who study information-processing capacities of the brain have identified the importance of the role of prior knowledge in learning. Researchers have found that the best way to spend time in studying new material is not necessarily to focus on the material itself; if we need certain information to understand it better, then we should devote more time to studying this prerequisite material. While this activity does not provide "knowledge" in the form of factual information, it does provide students a format through which to wrestle with concepts in familiar contexts before attempting the same activity in a less familiar context.
This lesson is adapted from Smagorinsky, Peter, Tom McCann, and Stephen Kern. 1987. Explorations: Introductory Activities for Literature and Composition, 7-12. 13-14. Urbana, IL: NCTE.