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Analyzing Diction
Resource ID#: 32837
Primary Type: Lesson Plan
This document was generated on CPALMS -
In this lesson, students will review the key terms: diction, denotation, and connotation. Working
in groups, they will determine denotative and connotative meanings of various words and discuss
how this choice of diction relates to author's meaning and tone. The lesson culminates with a
short creative writing activity in which students use connotative diction to convey a particular
Subject(s): English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 9, 10
Intended Audience: Educators
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection,
Overhead Projector, Microsoft Office
Instructional Time: 1 Hour(s) 30 Minute(s)
Resource supports reading in content area: Yes
Freely Available: Yes
Keywords: diction, connotation, denotation, tone, Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Instructional Component Type(s): Lesson Plan, Worksheet, Assessment , Text
Resource, Instructional Technique, Formative Assessment
Resource Collection: CPALMS Lesson Plan Development Initiative
Connotative Word Lists.docx
Great Expectations excerpt.docx
Rubric for Short Character Sketch.docx
Lesson Plan Template:
General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this
Students will:
Understand the difference between the connotative and denotative meaning of words.
Consider how connotative diction relates to the author's meaning and tone.
Present orally to the class appropriate examples of connotative diction.
Write a descriptive paragraph using connotative diction to convey a particular tone.
Write a clear, coherent paragraph that follows Standard English conventions.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
Key terms:
Diction- choice and use of words in speech or writing
Denotation- the explicit or direct meaning of a word as found in a dictionary
Connotation- associations implied by a specific word
Author's Meaning- the author's reason for writing (the author's intent for writing a piece) and the way it is
conveyed to achieve that meaning
Tone- the writer's attitude toward their topic. Note: The author reveals his (or her) attitude through the
selection of words he uses to describe the subject. It is important for students to know that the tone can be
determined by analyzing not only the word choice (also called diction) but the author's use of imagery,
details, and sentence structure (syntax). This lesson will focus on word choice.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
How does diction relate to the author's meaning?
How does an author's choice of diction affect the tone of a passage?
How do the denotative and connotative meanings of words differ?
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
1. As students enter the room, they will be handed a blank slip of paper as an entry ticket and be asked to
write two different synonyms for the word "smart." One word should convey a positive connotation and the
other a negative connotation. The teacher will evaluate the responses on the entry ticket to assess the
knowledge of the terms negative and positive connotation and may assign groups based on the responses.
2. After reviewing students' entry tickets and providing written or verbal feedback to help them understand
the difference between a positive and a negative connotation, have them briefly apply these concepts to see
if they are ready to move on in the lesson. Write the following words on the board: scrawny, slim, thin. Ask
them which word they feel is the best word to describe someone they consider attractive. Briefly discuss
the connotation of the three words.
3. The teacher will briefly introduce or review the keys terms (see prior knowledge list), and then introduce
the first guided practice activity.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher
Part 1 - Denotation
1. In small groups of 3-4 students, assign each group a vague word such as: small, big, nice, tall, old.
2. Ask each group to come up with as many synonyms for the words as they can in 3-5 minutes. Students
may use a thesaurus, if necessary.
3. Allow groups to share their lists, letting other class members add words.
4. Discuss how certain words denote a slightly different meaning from the original word. Point out that
writers choose particular words for their denotative meaning. Use examples such as: king-sized, or house
vs. home.
5. Students may even choose to look up words in a dictionary to see various definitions and how they
change. For example, the first definition for the word "geek" is a carnival performer who bites the head off
of a live chicken.
Part 2- Connotation
1. Divide students into groups of 3 or 4 and give each group one list of similar words from the attached
handout entitled "Connotative Word Lists."
2. Allow about 3-5 minutes for each group to identify each word as positive, negative, or neutral. Students
should keep in mind that many words can be either, depending on the context. To insure accuracy, students
may need to use dictionaries for this activity.
3. When they have finished, have each group choose 3 or 4 words from their list and illustrate their
meanings with a drawing or short skit, which they will present to the class. The drawings or skits should
clearly indicate a very specific meaning for the words. For example, if a student chooses to demonstrate
through a short skit, the action for the word "ogle" would be dramatically different from the word "peek."
4. For the presentation, each group must say the word, explain its meaning, and offer their illustration.
5. Have the class discuss/explain the difference between the words' connotations and their denotations.
(Dictionaries may be necessary!) They may also want to discuss situations in which one word might be
preferred over another.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce
the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Part 3- Tone/Create
1. Pass out the excerpt from Great Expectations and read it together as a group. Ask the students to express
their overall feeling about the characters of Mrs. Joe Gargery and Joe Gargery. Then discuss the narrator's
attitude toward those two characters. Ask the students to underline or point out words or phrases that
convey that attitude. Some of those words might include: "fair man, smooth face, mild, good-natured,
foolish, dear fellow, redness of skin, not good-looking, bony."
2. Working with the same list of words from Part 2, have students think about and write a brief description
of a person, real or imaginary, using at least three of their words to convey a certain tone that they had in
mind. They may add additional new words using a thesaurus, if necessary. The description should be
something that can be done in a 10-15 minute time frame. The teacher should suggest that the student
establish their attitude or tone first, and then write their brief description.
3. If time allows, exchange papers with a partner and have them try to determine the intended tone or
attitude toward the character.
4. Submit papers for teacher review if desired. (A suggested rubric has been attached.)
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the
The teacher will be able to point out that students now understand the role of connotative diction. Some
questions the teacher might wish to ask are:
1. How effective are just a few well-chosen words in influencing a reader's viewpoint about a character?
2. Could you rewrite your descriptive paragraph using opposite words and totally change your tone? How
3. How important is word choice to an author? Why?
4. How can you use connotative diction to convey meaning in your own writing?
Summative Assessment
The teacher will evaluate student understanding as the group activities progress and through the group
The teacher will assess the group presentations of drawings or skits on the accuracy of their portrayal of
each synonym.
Is the word's meaning clearly and easily identifiable?
Did the students put an adequate amount of effort into their presentation?
Did all group members participate?
Did students take the assignment seriously?
The final written product will be collected for a summative assessment. An optional rubric is provided in
the attachments.
Formative Assessment
As students enter the room, they will be handed a blank slip of paper as an entry ticket and be asked to
write two different synonyms for the word "smart." One word should convey a positive connotation and the
other a negative connotation. The teacher will evaluate the responses on the entry ticket to assess the
knowledge of the terms negative and positive connotation and may assign groups based on the responses.
As groups are working through the activities, the teacher will rotate to monitor and assess student
Feedback to Students
Students will receive feedback from their group as they are working through the activities. The teacher
should also monitor each group to ensure that they are on task. The teacher will answer questions, give
suggestions, and give positive, as well as corrective, feedback. The students will also receive feedback from
the class and teacher when each group presents.
Adjust the groups so that there is a positive role model in each one, if needed.
Allow the use of dictionaries.
Give frequent feedback.
Provide more time to complete activities.
For the written paragraph, the teacher may wish to provide one of the following accommodations:
 assign a tone word
 begin a descriptive paragraph as a class and let students complete it
 provide suggestions for people to write about such as an eccentric neighbor, a strict babysitter, etc.
Students may need to dictate their paragraph to a student helper or relate the story orally.
The short paragraph in part 3 of this lesson may be assigned for homework and extended into a full-fledged
narrative writing piece.
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, Overhead
Projector, Microsoft Office
Special Materials Needed:
Key words defined on white board or projected.
Connotation Word Lists for activity 2 printed on slips of paper for groups.
Blank paper.
Copies of excerpt from Great Expectations.
Dictionaries and thesauruses.
Further Recommendations:
Using the handout entitled "Connotative Word Lists," have words for activity 2 printed on slips of paper for
each group. You will need to decide whether each student will get a list of the words or whether they will
share within their groups.
Additional Information/Instructions
By Author/Submitter
This lesson introduces or reinforces an author's use of connotative and denotative diction to
convey a particular meaning or tone. The lesson allows the students to use varying modalities
including drawing, skits, and writing to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts.
Contributed by: Cathy Edwins
Name of Author/Source: Cathy Edwins
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Lee
Is this Resource freely Available? Yes
License: CPALMS License - no distribution - non commercial
Related Standards
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiplemeaning words and phrases based on grades 9–10 reading and
content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
a. Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence,
paragraph, or text; a word’s position or function in a
sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
b. Identify and correctly use patterns of word changes that
indicate different meanings or parts of speech (e.g.,
analyze, analysis, analytical; advocate, advocacy).
c. Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g.,
dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and
digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine
or clarify its precise meaning, its part of speech, or its
d. Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a
word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning
in context or in a dictionary).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in
the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze
the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and
tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place;
how it sets a formal or informal tone).
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research,
reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting
or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.