Determine Meanings of Words


Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Teengagement® Targeted Intervention Lessons (TILs) are a collection of mini lessons aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Each lesson explicitly targets one skill and provides teacher modeling, student practice, and examples of question stems. Click here for more information about TILs.

Purpose and Example

The Craft and Structure standard concentrates on how a text is written. The reader focuses on the word and phrase choices that authors make and becomes aware how these choices shape the meaning of the text in a figurative, connotative or technical way. Students also learn the meaning of the three terms.

  • Technical Meaning                                                Textbook

The aristocracy, government of the privilege, gave way to a form of tyranny because the tyrant often was a champion of all the people while the aristocracy was concerned with themselves. Democracy differed from both of the above because it was a government by the citizens.

Straightforward definitions/explanations

  • Figurative Meaning                                          “Miss Rosie”

When I watch you
Wrapped up like garbage
Sitting surrounded by the smell
Of too old potato peels

Figurative Language – Simile 

  • Connotative Meaning                                     Gettysburg Address

But, in a larger sense we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow, this ground –The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

Connotative meaning –  Reader is strongly aware of their sacrifice.

Teaching Tips

  • Define Terms
    • Technical meaning – the literal meaning of the word or phrase that means exactly what it says
    • Connotative meaning – the idea or emotion/ feeling that word or phrase evokes in a person
    • Figurative meaning – the use of words or phrases in an imaginative way that implies a non-literal meaning
  • Emphasize cluster reading
    • Look for phrases that elaborate on a specific word or concept by using repetition or other literary technique for emphasis.
    • Look for words/phrases that make you feel an emotion.
  • Connotative or Figurative? The figurative meaning of a group of words often provides an emotional context that falls in the area of connotative meaning.

Assessment Question Stems

  • Read this sentence from the article. What does the sentence tell readers about _______?
  • Which pair of words from the article best describes _______ that is conveyed in the picture that follows?
  • As used in the homepage, which two words are most similar in meaning?
  • Read these lines from the “_______” (poem). Based on the rest of the poem, which sentence best restates the meaning of the lines above?
  • Read this line from “_______.” Which word from the_______ (poem, article) if used to replace _______ (word in poem or article), would create the most opposite _____ (meaning, definition, image)?
  • Which phrase best describes both the _______(person, character, fact) in “_______” (article, poem, or passage #1) and the speaker of “_______” (article, poem, or passage #2)?


Download the complete targeted intervention lesson: Teengagement-TIL-Determine Meanings of Words Tech, Connotative


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