Shades of Meaning

Engage students in understanding the subtle nuances of the vocabulary
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About This Strategy

Shades of meaning is a strategy for teaching the subtle differences within a range of words students are exposed to within various texts. Utilize this strategy for all students, especially English Language Learners to aid in their ability to synthesize and retain the range of words related to another word. Exposure to these subtle differences within a group of words can aid in building reading comprehension and build vocabulary to use in writing. Grouping words into shades of meaning aids in building a student's syntax for speaking, reading and writing.

Implementation Steps

  1. Categorize a group of words within a mentor text that have subtle differences that you would like to focus on with students.

  2. Pre-select shades of meaning for the group of words (e.g., for the word "cold", some shades could be "frigid", "chilly", or "freezing") . 

  3. Introduce the words to students in a random order. 

  4. Guide the students through each of the pre-selected words to make sure they understand the meaning of each word. In order to ensure student understanding, you could do the following: 

    • Have students engage in a group discussion by asking them what they know about each of the words

    • Provide pictures, engage through Total Participation Response (TPR), gifs, etc. to provide and/activate schema.

  5. Assess the students' understanding of the meaning of the words through completion of an independent activity grading the focused vocabularies in their shades of meaning(see resources: word line and shades of meaning).

EL Modification

Description: Add visual elements to the focus group of words to provide students with the schema to better understand the subtle differences within the group. Students can take the movements provided by visual aids for context when completing the independent activity.

Implementation steps:

  1. Introduce the words in a random order using a physical presentation (see “Movement presentation” in Resources)

    • Introduce the word in English then ask: “How do you say this in …?”(student’s first language). 

  2. Guide the students through each of the pre-selected words to ensure student understanding

    • Discuss elements of the keywords with teacher movement to activate schema: 

      1. Is it fast (hand moving fast) or slow (hand moving slow)? 

      2. Is this happy (teacher making happy face) or mad (teacher making mad face)?

  3. Utilizing the examples within visual presentations (see ‘Movement Presentation’ in Resources) and engaging through Total Participation Response (TPR), provide and activate schema.

    • Words in the verb category-move like the physical presentation 

    • Emotions-make the emotions with their face

    • Sounds-students whisper, scream, etc. 

  4. Assess the students though completion of an independent activity grading the focused vocabularies in their shades of meaning.  (see resources: word line and shades of meaning in Resources)

Special Education Modification

Description:  Utilize visual elements corresponding to the focus group of words to provide students an alternative to physical action to demonstrate understanding. Students can use the visual elements of the movements for context when completing an independent activity.

Implementation steps:

  1. Categorize a group of words within a mentor text that have subtle differences. 

  2. Pre-select the shades of meaning for the group of words 

  3. Introduce the words in a random order using a physical presentation (see “Movement presentation” in Resources)

  4. Provide visual presentations (see ‘Movement Presentation’ in Resources) 

    • For students with physical disabilities use a modified version of Total Participation Technique (TPR) by using arms/hands or plastic animals, etc. to simulate the movement. 

    • For students with disabilities that impact verbal communication/processing/focus, a modification can be made utilizing an identification of a matching picture/gif to the teachers presentation

  5. Assess the students though the completion of an independent activity grading the focused vocabularies in their shades of meaning.  (see resources: word line and shades of meaning in Resources)

  6. The completion of the word line can be modified for students with disabilities that impact verbal communication/processing/focus using a grayscale organizer and/or pictures (see 2nd and 3rd page of Word Line link in Resources)

Shades of Meaning for Distance Learning

Description: To meet the needs of distance learning, the activity can be completed using visuals to share during live synchronous instruction. The addition of Flipgrid or Seesaw allows for students to share their understanding. 

Implementation steps:

  1. Introduce the words in a random order during live synchronous instruction (see Movement presentation in Resources), utilizing screen sharing the presentation (see Zoom Screensharing in Resources) 

    • To modify for an asynchronous day, utilize a presentation recording extension (see Mote Extension in Resources)  to make a recording providing teacher instruction. 

  2. Engage students in a group discussion to activate schema for the vocabulary

    • To  modify for distance learning, utilize the chat feature (see Zoom Chat link in resources). Pose a question, such as “what moves like this?” or “what sounds like this?” and send in the chat. 

  3. Assess the students though completion of a video reflection tool (see videos “Flipgrid’ and ‘Seesaw’ in resources.

    • This can be completed for both synchronous or asynchronous lessons. 

Related Lessons

This strategy can be used with vocabulary focused lessons because it creates an engaging experience for students to truly understand the meaning of words used in the ELA mentor text.