BY MARLENE CAROSELLI
May 21, 2013
Many facets comprise the metaphoric crystal of reading excellence. One of the most important is the ability to correctly use words in either their connotative or denotative sense. Understanding the difference between the two will help readers be both better assimilators of information and better writers as well.
An easy tip to distinguish between the two types of words is the letter “D.” D
enotative words can be found in a D
ictionary. They are straightforward and literal; they do not require readers to make assumptions.
Connotative words, on the other hand, are symbolic, suggestive and subtle. They evoke emotions and lead us to make inferences and associations (not all of which are positive).
Teach the concepts of connotative and denotative words, providing many examples. Then, follow up with this activity, in which students stick a C-note on connotative words or a D-note on denotative words. Here’s how it works:
Divide the class into teams of equal numbers—at least five to a team. If there are “leftover” students, they can form their own team. Provide each of them with a dictionary and ask them to identify a set of connotative words and another set of denotative words for the next relay. Alternatively, you can ask them to take a given word, such as “flag,” and define both its denotative and its connotative meanings.
Place on the classroom wall a poster board you’ve prepared in advance for each team. The boards will be divided into squares. Each square will have either a connotative word and its symbolic meaning or a denotative one and its literal meaning. There should be an equal number of each. An example of the denotation for “flag” would be “a piece of cloth with colors/emblems that identify a group or a country.” The square specifying the connotation for “flag” might read “a symbol of patriotism, a source of national pride.” The poster board will be filled with similar examples.
Line up the teams. Give a D-note or a C-note (with a piece of masking tape affixed to the top) to the first person in line. Clap your hands to indicate “Start” and have the lead runner rush to the board and stick his or her card on the corresponding word. (C-notes should be placed on connotative words and D-notes on denotative or dictionary definitions)
The lead runner rushes back and, as he or she touches the hand of the second runner, you place another C- or D-note into it. Have a pile of alternating C- and D-notes for each team and hand them out as the runners return to the starting point. If the teams are small, the runners may have to do two or three runs, depending on the number of words you have on your boards. The process continues until one team has the board completely covered.
At this point, you have to correct the C- and D-note placements. If the first-to-finish team has all the words correctly labeled with either a C-note or a D-note, declare that team the winning team.
Related activities: Members of the winning team receive a fake “C-note,” or hundred dollar bill, to be spent in ways you’ve charted. For example, they might receive ten, ten-point bonuses for various quizzes, or an excuse from one night’s homework, worth $40. Configure the spending possibilities in ways most enticing to your students.
A second vocabulary exercise could be to study the words derived from “centum,” the Latin word for 100. Note that “C” notes are the vernacular for $100-bills. Marlene Caroselli, Ed.D. writes extensively about education topics. Among her books on the subject are 500 CREATIVE CLASSROOM CONCEPTS and THE CRITICAL THINKING TOOL KIT.
© 2013 Marlene Caroselli. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Teaching Tips: Dancing with the StarTs Grammar Games to Deliver Fun and Confidence