November 26, 2013

Two Birds With One Stone

         I hope everyone is enjoying this pre-Thanksgiving week!  I, for one, will be enjoying two birds this week.  One that my husband smoked for our camping trip and one that my niece will be cooking for the first time ever on the big day!  So it is very fitting that last week I thought of this title, and then never got to write it!  It’s about shades of meaning and how to attack this skill in two subjects, instead of just in one!

            Let’s start with a question.  Have you ever taught something with “cute” words?  I mean, really “cute”, so “cute” that, after awhile, they start making you a little sick!  I believe this is because these “cute” words aren’t true to what kids need to know.  The word I am currently “sick” of is “Sparkle Words”.  Let’s face it, what does this really mean.  Oh, I know what it means.  It means to go in and find weak words and replace them with stronger words, making your writing “sparkle”.  But do kids deserve more than a word that doesn’t really match something in reading!  There is, after all, an exact reading term for this very concept.  It is a term they are now (or should be) learning in lower grades with the influx of Common Core.  Let’s, then, make it really count and call it what it is in writing also-Shades of Meaning!  And, so I did! 

            I started out with redirecting them through a Power Point to our slide show on Roald Dahl and author’s purpose.  We specifically talked about his ability to write exactly opposite of what he wanted to say to his teachers! 

Imagine that, an author who was clever enough to trick his teachers into thinking he couldn't write!  We also looked specifically at some of his word choices and talked about what thesaurus are.

 I explained that the shade of meaning, or intensity of the word, helped to strengthen his writing.  To show them what I meant by intensity, I showed them a large paint chip from Wal-Mart’s paint section that has all of the intensities of blue on the chip in circle form. (These are from Better Homes and Gardens Paint)  We focused next on one particular sentence: 

And she was mad! ( Page 37)

Using the thesaurus, we first picked out the definition that matched the sentence on page 37-Wait, can it be true-THIS IS READING!-and then tried out a few.  I showed them how we would build an intensity continuum and we charted out mad.  And, low and behold, we found “seeing red” as one of the most intense word choices!  A great example of how idioms are an intense shade of meaning!  Isn’t figurative language a standard in READING vocabulary in Common Core (and, not to mention, NGSSS)?  Are you starting to see what I mean?  Why keep calling them words like “sparkle words” when you can get more bang for your buck!  Shall we move on?

            I then turned it over to the kids.  I gave each group a sentence from Charlie and the Chocolate factory with a word underlined on the page.  They needed to find 4 more words in that shade of meaning that grew in intensity.  It was amazing. They went at it and really enjoyed talking about how the words grew stronger but didn’t change the meaning. One group lost their way in the fact that they picked the first four words they came across.  I worked with them to “shop around” a little and soon, they had gathered some pretty intense words.  Continuums were created, and we were on our way!

            Next, I gave them a word with multi meanings-wait, isn’t that READING!- and had them 1.  Find their meaning and 2.  Organize them by intensity.  This was from my Shades of Meaning 8 Pack.  Once they created their intensity continuum by simply ordering them on their desktops, they shared out with the class.  After that, they completed the form provided in the pack for the word “good” that their group had.  And just like that, we were on our way to creating stronger sentences in our writing from something that matches a reading skill!

            But we weren’t finished!  Next, I gave them a weak word from a website I found.  Can I find it now, of course not!  There are tons of them out there to use though, so find what works for you!  As partners, the students worked on two words. They were given the directions to find 5 “weak” words, because the one I gave them was the WEAKEST, 5 strong words, 5 stronger words, and 5 intense words.  

This was the only way I could think it through that made sense to them.  I do need to work on this particular thought.  Anyways, they went to town and created word lists to match their weakest word!  I reminded them that they would be sharing these with the class, and to be prepared, but they weren’t prepared for what came next.

            A gravestone, some tears and a whole lot of saying goodbye!  Many of you have probably heard about burying words, putting them away from use, but have you ever had an actual funeral.  We did.  I “cried” and everything.  Once the kids got into it, it was pretty humorous.  They cried loudly over each word as I announced its death and put it on the gravestone.  They then “eulogized” their word by sharing their stronger choices.  I wrote them on the paint chip circles that are now hung our Shades of Meaning bulletin board.  

As we go further along, I will be creating lists of ways to make their writing come “alive” next to our tombstone and shades of meaning continuums.  This will include similes, metaphors, alliterations, etc.  that I post on flowers.  I thought that would be a nice way to show how their writing will grow by using intense word choice.

            So, here’s the bigger picture and how I am killing two birds with one stone. Next we will  go over the question stems for shades of meaning for reading tests.  That means I can now write test questions based on shades of meaning and they will get it.  I can now go through the figurative language pieces for their writing.  I can tie it to how writers use figurative language to strengthen their work and how they should too.  I can show them how those question stems work!  It’s all connected; it’s all one strand!  It is now open season for this word work!  Take a shot at it; I think you will like it!


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