She Did What? Revising for Connotation

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
50 minutes
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Did she walk, skip, amble, dance? In this minilesson, students examine the simple sentence "She walked into the room." Volunteers act out ways that the student in the sentence might enter the room, and the teacher models revising the sample sentence accordingly. Students then suggest other replacements for the verb in the sentence to increase the specificity of the word and explore connotation. Students follow this demonstration by selecting words with powerful connotations for their own writing.

From Theory to Practice

To use language effectively, students need to begin with ideas and elements that are familiar to them. 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.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Overheads, handouts, or a white board.

  • Students will need a piece of writing that they have been working on—either in writer's journals or a paper.




  • To introduce the idea of connotation, you might complete Avalanche, Aztek, or Bravada? A Connotation Minilesson before having students revise their own texts in this lesson.

  • Prepare overheads or handouts; or arrange to present materials on the board.

  • Explore the background exercises on connotation found at Websites listed in the Resources section.

  • During this lesson three students demonstrate the sentence "She walked into the room." Before you begin the lesson, prepare these students by asking them to walk into the room in a particular manner:

    • Ask one student to walk in quickly, as if she is late. She's not to run, but she should seem rushed and hurried.

    • Ask another student to walk in at a fairly normal speed, but as if she is very happy and pleased. She might bounce in or float in dreamily.

    • Ask the last student to walk in very slowly, as if she really isn't interested in the class and has plenty of time to get into her seat.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • define and explore the concept of connotation.

  • examine how word choice affects meaning.

  • revise a passage for vivid, connotative language.

Instruction & Activities

  1. Write the following sentence on the board or overhead projector, "She walked into the room."

  2. Discuss the meaning of the sentence. What can we really tell about what the student did? Point out to students that the sentence is rather bland, because we cannot visualize anything about the action.

  3. Send the three students you've prepared into the hallway, and ask them to enter one at a time, following your instructions.

  4. Think aloud as you revise the sentence—write your new version under the original as each student enters so that you have four sentences on the board once all the students have entered:
    How could we replace the verb, so that we get a better understanding of the person entering the room? If I change the sentence to "She rushed into the room," how do the verb's connotations help to see not only what she looked like, but also what type of person she is? Or maybe I should say that "She hurried into the room"? I'm not sure. Maybe I'll write both.

    Okay, here comes another student. "She walked into the room" doesn't really capture what she's doing either. Hmm. What about "She bounced into the room." Or instead of just the verb, maybe I should add an adverb that tells the reader more: "She bounced happily into the room." Okay. That's better.

    Last student. Wow. She's walking very slowly. Looks like she doesn't even want to be here. I wonder if I should revise the sentence to say "She meandered into the room." Or maybe add an adverb and leave the verb alone: "She walked slowly into the room."
  5. Once you've created three revised sentences, ask students to think about the differences between the original sentence and the new versions. Pay particular attention to the way connotation and word choice changed the meaning.

  6. Ask students to suggest other verbs for the sentence and discuss the related connotations. Possible words include the following: strutted, slithered, pranced, oozed, and marched. Ask students to consider how the verb choice affects the mental image that we form of this person and how effective word choice can affect writing. If time allows, students might dramatize some of these word options as well.

  7. When you are confident that students are prepared to consider the word choice in their own writing, ask students to choose a paragraph in their writer's journals or a paper that they are working on to revise, paying particular attention to connotation.
    More Practice
    If students need more examples before revising their own writing, work as a whole class or in small groups to revise several paragraphs for more vivid detail. You can either use the Connotation Revision Passage handout, or ask a student to volunteer a passage from his or her writing for the class to consider.
  8. Ask students to rewrite the paragraph to create a vivid effect, so that the reader can see what is happening and see the setting where the action occurs.

  9. Monitor student progress to ensure that writers are comfortable with the task.

  10. Once the minilesson is complete, ask students to explore the pieces that they are writing for additional places where they can add more vivid details. Students may work during their in-class writing time or complete the revisions as homework.


Student Assessment / Reflections

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

  • Ask students to share their revised writing with the class and comment on the details they've added. You might ask students to share "before" and "after" passages to make the revisions more dramatic.

  • Comment on the changes to student passages by responding in writing or during individual or group conferences.

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