Thursday, March 27, 2014


Gradients of meaning

Here's another activity linked to Am I Small?

If you have your own classroom here's a fun bulletin board project! Give each student a a paint strip (you can get them for free from your local hardware store: Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) Paint strips have recently gained popularity in crafting and are no longer used as samples. As a result some stores are charging. Rather than take the samples from the paint display, ask the manager if they have any expiring paints that you could grab the sample sticks for when they expire. Or, if they have any expired paint samples ready to toss. 

Once you found your paint strips, write a "boring" adjective on the bottom (the lightest color) then have them choose their own adjectives that mean the same (or similar) but are more powerful. Have them write these on the darker parts. What do I mean by a boring adjective? This post talks about it in more detail.

You can use the story as an example and make a couple sample paint strips using the words from the story.

When your students finish these make great Spring decorations for a bulletin board, door, or wherever you like! You can put a title on it like: "Keep your language colorful" or "Make the world a more colorful place!" and then fill the board with your students paint strips! 

Here are four different "Rich" cards showing different denotations.
Another option is to explore different meanings of the words. Let's look at the word rich. 

Ask what the word means, then give them different examples.

Or, you can get your students to figure out what the different meanings of rich are. It can mean to be well off, to have a lot of something, have a lot of intensity, to be buttery and thick (with foods), to show irony, to be interesting, to be prolific, etc. Once you have the idea see if you can give them some other words.

Divide the class into small groups and give them each the same word. However, tell them to each focus on a different meaning of the word. To get a good idea of words with different meanings you can check out the two part list here. If the groups are bigger then have two students work on the same denotation, but try to come up with different words.

On the bulletin board make brown or yellow circles that contain the "boring" words. Surround these circles with the finished paint strips so the yellow becomes the center of the flower and the paint strips are the petals.

Let your students know that this is their Synonym Garden! Whenever they want inspiration on better words to use, they can look at the different meanings words have and pick a more specific description.

While I think this project words wonderfully with adjectives you can do it with nouns or verbs too! For example, the word run has many different meanings (you can run a computer program, run for office, run a company, etc.) If we were talking about moving quickly: run-speed-hurry-hasten-zoom-bolt.

I don't currently have my own classroom :( So, I am not able to show you how pretty it looks.

If you manage to do this with your class, I would LOVE to see the final product!


  1. I was working along the same lines yesterday but then came across this post which is an excellent visual activity. Thank you for sharing Carissa.

    1. I am so glad you found this helpful! Let me know if you end up using it.

  2. Excellent Carissa. You gave me a lot of inspiration!. Do I have to make my own cards or I can get yours somehow??????/
    Thanks for letting me know soon
    Sissy Greece.

    1. The blank card? They are just paint sample cards! You can usually get them for free at any hardware store. If you mean the ones with words on them, it's best if you and your students create your own to make it a really meaningful project!

  3. Thank you Carissa i'am new here and i think i am going to be a follower right now ;) good work

  4. Thank you Carissa, it's a good work I think i'm going to be a follower right now !!

  5. Replies
    1. I am so glad you think it was worth your time Muhammad :)

  6. That's nice Carissa ... It's me Mohammed Muammer

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it Mohammed. Thanks for stopping by and saying hello :)


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