How to Teach Shades of Meaning

Vocabulary matters. Knowing what words mean is one of the keys to reading comprehension and words are also HOW we communicate.  Understanding the meaning of words and actively learning new words helps students to become better communicators - in their reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Shades of Meaning
Understanding the subtle differences and nuances in similar words is a great way to expand a student’s vocabulary by connecting words they already know to words with similar, yet slightly different meanings.

How I Teach Shades of Meaning

Step 1: I show students a list of words with similar meanings such as hot, blistering, sweltering, and warm.  I know that they will know what hot and warm mean but they may not know the words blistering and sweltering.

Step 2: I show students the words in a sentence and model using a think-aloud to determine each word's meaning using context clues. I give students the definition of the words and use another think-aloud to clarify and confirm the meanings of the words.

Shades of Meaning Bundle

Step 3: Teach that a “semantic gradient” is a tool to organize similar words based on the intensity of meaning. Place the least and most intense words on either end of the semantic gradient.

Step 4: Have students pair up and describe something that would be warm and something that would be blistering.

Step 5: Introduce another set of words and give partners a set of word cards. Give each pair a page of sentences using the words and have the students work together to determine the meanings of the words. Provide students the definitions to compare with their meanings of the words.

Step 6: Have partners create their own semantic gradient with the word cards and have pairs share their completed gradients with the class.

We love to call ourselves "Vocabularians" and spend a few minutes every single day interesting words we find in our independent reading, our texts, videos - wherever we might see or hear words. We keep a "Words We Love" space in our classroom to collect our favorite interesting words. Teaching shades of meaning helps to expand students' vocabulary and hopefully allows students to enjoy the "magic" in the nuances of the meaning of words.

I have a FREE Shades of Meaning Anchor Chart for you! Click the image below to grab your copy!

Would you like more ELA tips? Read about how I use Book Talks.  Book talks are an engaging way to get students talking about and sharing the books that they LOVE!

What are your favorite topics to teach in ELA?

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