What difference can one word make?
Political history provides us with some memorable examples of a single word’s power: from Dan Quayle’s misspelling of “potato” to the (incorrect) report that John F. Kennedy labelled himself a German jelly donut, tales of language gaffes from elected officials abound.
But today we at Thinkspiration want readers to go deeper than news sound bites–to really consider how one word affects the tone, intent and meaning of any informative or narrative text.
Common Core State Standard RL 6.4 (RI 6.4 is very similar) requires that by the end of sixth grade, students be able to: “Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.”
But how to impress upon today’s students the importance of just one word? Kids aren’t exactly devouring newspapers voraciously, and 4-minute YouTube videos tend to be the extent of teenaged visual attention spans.
If you’ve got no words to describe your frustration at teaching vocabulary in context, why not try Inspiration’s “Vocabulary Word” template?
Paired with the “Visualizing Vocabulary” lesson plan, this tool allows students to isolate just one word and explore it extensively. Impress upon your class that a single word really can make a difference; has AutoCorrect ever sabotaged their texts with the wrong word? How does word choice affect a Tweet? And really, would the song have been as great if One Direction had sung “You don’t know you’re pretty”?
If you’re looking for something more historical and time-appropriate, consider looking at Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Show your students that while words like “manacles,” “promissory,” and “sweltering” might be daunting at first, they can look for clues in surrounding sentences to help them discover meanings and examine what effect his word choice had on the whole text.
“All words are pegs to hang ideas on,” Henry Ward Beecher once said. We couldn’t agree more–and we hope you’ll encourage your students to take it one peg at a time!
Signing off from Inspiration HQ,