Lighter or Darker Words

I found this excellent teaching tip today on the local message board. You need to be a member of my school board to access the site so I thought I would share this tip with you here. It was originally posted by Dr. Megan Cyrisse Parry-Jamieson.

“Hi all — I’ve been having good results with word work in my grade 7 class – the first thing they loved I stole from a colleague (Christina Young) — I hit up Home Depot for the out of style paint chip strips. Each kid got one — and got to put one word on one of the colours. Then they had to come up with ‘lighter’ or ‘darker’ versions of the same word — they loved it, kept the strips, and I’ve heard them talking to each other about ‘that word is too light, you need a shade darker’ — so it stuck! woo hoo!”

I tried this activity out myself. I really like how it gets the kids brainstorming about different words that mean the same thing. We can introduce the term synonym during this lesson and get the kids using a thesaurus.

I thought I’d come up with words for fight as an example. This is what I came up with.

You can see that at the bottom of the paint strip I used the most tame version of the word fight I could come up with.

  • Scrimmage is a friendly game or competition. 
  • Scrap is a word we often use to describe a small fight between two people. Sometimes a scrap will break out during a game or a scrimmage.
  • Match is a more formal word for a game than scrimmage (like a boxing match)
  • Bout is also used in boxing and we can see that imagery with this word.
  • Fight is a strong word and you can see that we’ve been working on way up the strip so that as the colours get darker, the definition of the word does as well. 
  • Brawl means lots of people are involved in the fight.
  • And finally a Melee is used to describe a fight that is utter chaos and involves a large group of people.
I think if I were going to do this activity with younger students, I would give them a small list of words to choose from. This way they wouldn’t be overwhelmed by all of the choices in the thesaurus. 
Megan also had something else to share on the message board . . .

The other thing I’ve discovered are the word scafolding organzers at — I’ve added several to my website under ‘student stuff’ and ‘daily 5’ — the top 3 are word work specific — find a word, the definition, several examples, and several non-examples, where they will find it, and how they will connect it

I’m finding it awesome in terms of improving word choice, but it’s also really helping for concept retention and vocab comprehension in my rotary science classes — for kids to see that ‘conductor’ is something that transfers energy well, NOT the guy driving the train…. helps. Also helps when they make the link between Conductor and Contact — build in reminders…. my ESL kids are attending to specifics better — whenever they incorrectly substitute a visually similar but not related word they get a word sheet — feel free to pull them off my site — they’re free for teacher use etc. from

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