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Lesson Plan

Choose, Select, Opt, or Settle: Exploring Word Choice in Poetry

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Choose, Select, Opt, or Settle: Exploring Word Choice in Poetry

Grades 9 – 12
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions, plus time for student projects
Lesson Author

Scott Filkins

Scott Filkins

Champaign, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Students are prompted to challenge their notion of synonyms being words that "mean the same" by investigating key words in Robert Frost's poem "Choose Something Like a Star." First they build an understanding of connotation and register by categorizing synonyms for the title word choose. Then they develop lists of synonyms for words of their choice elsewhere in the poem and collaborate on a full analysis, focusing on the relationship between word choice and the elements of speaker, subject, and tone.

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Word Matrix: This interactive allows students to explore the similarities and differences among words typically considered synonyms.

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In "Register and Charge: Using Synonym Maps to Explore Connotation," Darren Crovitz and Jessica A. Miller argue that students' typical understanding of the word synonym as meaning "'a word that means the same as another word'" is "at best an oversimplification and at worst a way to end thinking about what words actually signify" (49).  They advocate for investigations into language and word groups to allow students to discover that "the subtlety of just how and to what extent [words are] similar makes all the difference when it comes to choosing the best word for a given purpose" (49). This lesson encourages students to explore the subtleties of shifting connotation and meaning effected by word choice.

Further Reading

Crovitz, Darren, and Jessica A. Miller. "Register and Charge: Using Synonym Maps to Explore Connotation." English Journal 97:4.  (March 2008): 49-55.

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