Shades of Meaning

How to use Shades of Meaning in your Reading and Writing lessons.

When I first read the Common Core Standards I had never heard of shades of meaning.  Synonyms and antonyms had always been included in my vocabulary or word study lessons, but semantic gradients was a new concept.

But now I see how learning about the subtle differences in word meanings helps students with their comprehension and also helps them fine-tune their writing.

I made this simple slide that can be used to explore semantic gradients, or shades of meaning with reading or writing.  Here how you do it . . . 


1.  Choose a sentence from a story you're reading with or to the class.  Here's an example from Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. And that dog came trotting over to me just like he had been doing it his whole life. (p. 10)   Write it on the slide, with the focus word on the cut out area.
 Shades of Meaning lesson for reading.---Crockett's Classroom

Shades of Meaning, using them in your reading and writing lessons2.  Now brainstorm with the class other words that mean a way to move.  They may come up with a list like this:  running, skipping, crawling, racing, jumping, hopping, creeping, strolling, or walking. 

3. Choose six of them, along with the original word to write on the paint chip slide. Write them in order from less intense to more intense.  Although there isn't just one way to arrange the words, students should be able to explain or justify the order they choose.

4.  Now put the paint chip through the slots on the sentence slide.  As you slide it through discuss how each word gently changes the tone, or mood of the sentence.  Discuss which word they think best expresses what the author is wanting to express in that part of the story.  Do they think the author chose the best word?  Why  or why not.


-During the revision step in the writing process students should
be taking a closer look at the words they've put in their writing
and deciding if it’s just the right word.  Ask them to choose one
sentence with a word they might want to change.
Example:  Henry ate his lunch under a tree.
-Brainstorm synonyms for ate; gobbled, devoured, gulped, nibbled,
munched, scarfed, inhaled, picked at.
-Choose six to write on the slide from less intense to more intense. 
Using shades of meaning to revise student writing.---Crockett's Classroom

picked at, nibbled, munched, ate, gobbled, scarfed, devoured.
There will not be an absolute right or wrong way to line up the words. 
Students should have time to justify the order they choose.
-Let the students try out each word to see how it affects the tone of the story.
-Things to discuss:  Which word better expresses what is going on in that part of the story?  Which word enhances the mood and works for that character and setting?

Click here to download the free 

Shades of Meaning activity.

 Shades of Meaning, ideas for using this skill in reading and writing.  Students get experience with arranging synonyms and then choose just the right one for their sentences.  In reading, students look more closely at words in the text that have similar meaning.


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Earth Day Countdown

Earth Day should be every day.  These books and activities will help your students be a better Earth citizen every day of the year.

Earth Day is almost here!

Warm spring days show us Earth is waking up from a cold, cold winter.  That makes March and April the perfect time to celebrate this wonderful planet we call home.

One great way to introduce your students to Earth Day is through picture books.  Here are a few books to share with your class:

Earth Day is the perfect time to get your kids to read informational text.  Here's a few books that will keep your kids reading.

The Wump World by Bill Peet,    The Wumps live on a peaceful, clean and beautiful planet. Then one day a fleet of space crafts arrive bringing new creatures who make lots of changes in their world.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss,    One of the best loved books by Dr. Seussl  It tells the story of what happens when the natural world collides with modern progress.

Earth Smart by Leslie Garrett,     Easy to read introduction on how we can all take care of the environment.

Holiday Histories, Earth Day by Mir Tamim Ansary,    Tells about the origins of Earth Day and what we need to do to save the environment.

Click! Energy, Splash! Water, Blow! Air, Yuck! Waste  Taking Care of your planet series by Nuria and Empar Jimenez      Wonderful series of books, beautifully illustrated with great information about our environment.

Dear Children of the Earth by Schim Schimmel   Beautiful book in the form of a letter from Mother Earth, asking children to help protect her.

Living Sunlight by Molly Bang,   Wonderful book that explains how plants and animals need each other to continue living on Earth.  The illustrations are amazing!

The Tree by Dana Lyons,    The illustrations by David Danioth are beautiful.  The story is told through the view point of a tree and encourages us all to work together to save the environment. 

Along with these wonderful books you can start an Earth Day Countdown. I've put together 10 activities so you can have a countdown to Earth Day with your class.  There are 10 pages to share with your class as you learn about Earth Day and the environment. Here's one sample page you can download.

 Earth Day Countdown Sample page

The packet also has a mini-book for students.  Each half page of the mini-book is a brief activity to complete that connects to that day's discussion. Click here to see the full packet on Crockett's Classroom on TPT. 

 Crockett's Classroom, Countdown to Earth Day


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