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Lesson Plan

Avalanche, Aztek, or Bravada? A Connotation Minilesson

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Avalanche, Aztek, or Bravada? A Connotation Minilesson

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time 50 minutes
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Instruction & Activities

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • define and explore the concept of connotation.

  • examine how word choice affects meaning.

  • write vivid, connotative language as part of a description.

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Instruction & Activities

  1. Give students the names of cars popular in the 1960s: Thunderbird, Falcon, Charger, Comet, Mustang, Barracuda.

  2. Ask the students the following questions:

    • How are these names effective in evoking powerful associations in a listener or reader?

    • What kind of performance could you expect from each of these cars?

    • Why do you think these names were selected, and for what kind of buyer?
  3. Present a second list of car names, this time from the 1970s: Rabbit, Pinto, Colt, Civic, Starlet, Gremlin.

  4. Ask the students the following questions:

    • How are the associations we make with these names different?

    • What kind of performance could you expect from each of these cars?

    • Who might you expect to buy them?

    • Why do you think these names were selected?
  5. Introduce the idea of connotation, defining it as the associations that people make with a word. You can contrast connotation with the denotative value of a word, its more literal meaning, and give an example of a word (such as "chicken") which has particular connotation depending on the listener: to a poultry farmer, it might bring one thing to mind; to a restaurant owner, another thing; to someone who is afraid, still another thing. In the phrase, "chicken soup," it can bring to mind another kind of thoughts.
    More Practice
    If your students need more information to understand connotation, share the What Does the Word Chicken Mean in these Titles? handout as an overhead or handout to demonstrate the many connotations of the word. You can either explore the various meanings of the word in whole class discussion or divide your class into small groups that consider one or more of the images each then share their findings with the class before proceeding.
  6. Once you've defined connotation and you're satisfied that students understand the concept, divide students into small groups of 4 to 5 students each. Write the assignment on the board, or use the reproducible to create an overhead or handouts. In the groups, students complete one of the following activities:
    Option One
    Here are the names of some new cars:
     
    • Buzzard
    • Ox
    • Gnat
    • Walrus
    • Toad
    • Eel
    • Basset Hound
     
    • Slug
    • Rhinoceros
    • Stegosaurus
    • Porcupine
    • Squid
    • Dodo

    Describe them, and tell why this car fits the needs of the society. Who drives it? What does it look like? How big and fast is it? Is it a family car, an SUV, a sporty car, or something else?

    Option Two
    Your group has been asked to think up a name for a new car. Choose a name and then describe your car. Why does this car fits the needs of the society? Who drives it? What does it look like? How big and fast is it? Is it a family car, an SUV, a sporty car, or something else?

    Option Three
    Brainstorm a list of currently used automobile names and analyze the choices as they relate to the vehicle they relate to. What connotations did the manufacturer hope to evoke? What details do the names bring to mind? What does the name tell you about who drives the car, how fast it is, and what its features are?
  7. Allow students 15 to 20 minutes to explore the car names; then gather the class together and discuss the connotations that students associate with each word.

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EXTENSIONS

After students explore the idea of connotation in this lesson, turn their attention to the connotations of their word choice in their own writing with She Did What? Revising for Connotation.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

This should be a fun activity that students complete without the pressure of a grade. Discussion between and among groups, supported by your commentary on particularly strong choices, can provide adequate feedback. Additionally, you might try one of these options:

  • Monitor student progress during the minilesson and as students work independently through anecdotal notetaking and kidwatching.

  • Comment on the group work by responding in writing or during individual or group conferences.

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