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Common Core Standards: ELA

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language

Language CCRA.L.5

5. Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

Like fine cooking, the choice of ingredients in a sentence and the order in which they’re put together can make or break the finished product. Understanding how words affect one another and the overall sentence, as well as understanding the finer shades of word meaning, can make a huge difference to comprehension and also enhance reading pleasure.

Example 1

Sample Activities for Use in Class

Read a Poem

Most good poems pay close attention to words and their nuances and to how they work with other words to create rhythm and accentuate meaning. For this activity, you can pick your favorite poem, or a poem that you think your students will like. Read it as a class and work on analyzing the poet’s word choices, and discuss why they are effective. A couple suggestions for poems you might use: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 or “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by William Butler Yeats.

Favorite Songs!

You can be sure that your students listen to a lot of music and have strong opinions on which songs are good and which bands are respectable and which songs by which band are their strongest and when exactly a particular band started to sell out and…so on. Well, this activity will give them a chance to voice these opinions they have bubbling up inside them. They will come to see the link between why they love a particular song and how that ties in with this standard.

Ask each of your students to pick a song that really moves them in some way (makes them happy or sad, or sentimental or angry) with its lyrics. They will work individually to analyze the lyrics of this song and write a short essay on how the words achieve their effect. Ask your students to keep an eye out for things like evocative language, imagery, puns, innovative similes, and repetition in their analysis. They will then present their analysis of the song to the class. If two or more students happened to pick the same song, it can be interesting to compare the various analyses of the same lyrics!

Quiz 1 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. Questions 1 through 3 refer to the following sentence: “After the hurricane, the survivors searched the abandoned shops for food and water.”

    The statement implies that the survivors searched the shops because they were:

    Correct Answer:

    hungry and thirsty

    Answer Explanation:

    Hence their search for “food and water”


  2. Suppose that the above sentence appears in a newspaper. instead of “searched,” however, the reporter has inserted the word “looted.” What does the substitution of “looted” for “searched” imply?

    Correct Answer:

    The survivors were taking things from the shops that did not belong to them.

    Answer Explanation:

    “Looted” is a synonym for “stole,” implying that the survivors not only went through the contents of the shops, but unlawfully took things as well.


  3. The word “abandoned” tells the reader several things about the shops. Which of the following is NOT one of them?

    Correct Answer:

    Someone else had taken all the food and water before the survivors got there.

    Answer Explanation:

    All the answers except this one are reasonable inferences based on the word “abandoned”


  4. Questions 4 and 5 refer to the following review of a rock band’s new album: “The band’s once-graceful harmonies disintegrate into a painful cacophony so harsh it makes fingernails on a chalkboard sound musical by comparison.”

    The use of the term “once-graceful” implies that the writer thinks the band’s music:

    Correct Answer:

    used to be graceful, but is now clumsy

    Answer Explanation:

    It was graceful “once upon a time,” but not anymore.


  5. Which of the following words is the best synonym for “cacophony” as it’s used in this sentence?

    Correct Answer:

    noise

    Answer Explanation:

    “Cacophony” refers to dissonant sound, or noise as opposed to music


  6. It’s just four hours before prom, and your date calls you, miserable. “I can’t go to prom!” your date cries. “I have a zit that’s as big as a house!” What your date most likely means is:

    Correct Answer:

    Your date has a very large zit.

    Answer Explanation:

    This is the figurative meaning of “as big as a house,” as well as the one that’s not hyperbole, or non-exaggerated.


  7. Your sister returns from the mall with a new cell phone that will do everything, up to and including doing your sister’s calculus homework for her. When you ask where she got it, she says, “You’re totally looking at the last one. When they said they didn’t have any more of these, I literally died.” Does your sister mean that she “literally died”? Why or why not?

    Correct Answer:

    No; she means she felt like she was going to die because her disappointment was too great, but she’s actually still alive.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - “Literally” means something happened as it was stated. here, the sister did not keel over and die, but just felt like she would. “Die” is a hyperbole here, not a fact. *correct answer (e) - Actually, it’s probably the other way round.


  8. Questions 8 through 10 refer to the following sentence: “Braden didn’t even bother to look both ways before running across the train tracks.”

    Which of the following words or phrases could be used instead of “look” without changing the meaning of the sentence?

    Correct Answer:

    glance

    Answer Explanation:

    “Turn to face” doesn’t necessarily mean he was looking in those directions, and the fact that he’s running implies he doesn’t have time for more than a “glance,” making (d) the best answer


  9. If Braden knew a train was coming when he decided to cross the tracks, which of the following synonyms for “running” would most accurately explain how he ran?

    Correct Answer:

    sprinted

    Answer Explanation:

    If a train’s coming, he’s trying to get out of the way as fast as possible


  10. Of the following sentences, which uses hyperbole to describe how Braden crossed the tracks?

    Correct Answer:

    Braden ran faster than the wind until he got out of the way of the speeding train.

    Answer Explanation:

    “faster than the wind” is used to describe Braden’s speed, but is not a literal depiction of running.


Quiz 2 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. Consider the following two sentences:

    Sentence A: The stegosaurus weighs several tons, but it has a brain the size of a walnut.
    Sentence B: Stephanie can’t remember how to get to the museum because she has a brain the size of a walnut.

    Which of these sentences uses the phrase “has a brain the size of a walnut” literally? How can you tell?

    Correct Answer:

    Sentence A, because the stegosaurus actually had a tiny brain, while Stephanie has a normal human-size brain, even if it can’t remember how to get to the museum.

    Answer Explanation:

    Yes! This is correct. The word “literally” means that what you are saying is really true; if you’re just exaggerating to sound impressive, you are speaking “figuratively”. Stephanie’s brain is human-brain size, even if she is a bit of a dim bulb, so that sentence uses “has the brain the size of a walnut” figuratively. The stegosaurus, on the other hand, really had a tiny brain, so that sentence uses the same phrase literally.


  2. Questions 2 and 3 refer to the following sentence: “DeShaun thought about buying the fifth Harry Potter book at the yard sale, but he decided it would be redundant since he already had a full set.”

    In this sentence, the word “redundant” most likely means:

    Correct Answer:

    unnecessarily copying something that already exists

    Answer Explanation:

    a thing is “redundant” when it is unnecessarily repetitive, such as the phrase “we’ll be there soon in a moment.” “Soon” and “in a moment” mean the same thing; there’s no need for both.


  3. All of the words or phrases below are synonyms of “redundant” EXCEPT:

    Correct Answer:

    ridiculous

    Answer Explanation:

    Sure, these two words sound kind of alike, but they do not mean the same thing.


  4. Laila carries a light-blue purse; Aisha carries a light blue purse. What’s the difference between these two purses?

    Correct Answer:

    Laila’s purse is a light shade of blue, while Aisha’s purse is blue in color and also not heavy.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Maybe, but there’s no evidence in the sentence to support it.
    • (b) - The hyphen in “light-blue” indicates the purse is one thing, which is the color “light blue.” Without the hyphen, the purse is both light and blue, but not necessarily light-blue. *correct answer

  5. Your journalist friend is writing a review of a new movie theater. He wants to indicate in his review that the theater, which shows mostly family films, is almost never cleaned. Which of the following words or phrases should he definitely NOT use to describe this messy family theater?

    Correct Answer:

    “The Plaza 14 is a dirty-movie theater.”

    Answer Explanation:

    Option (a) indicates the Plaza 14 is a movie theater that is dirty, while (b), (c) and (d) are all hyperbole describing the mess. Option (e), however, indicates that the theater shows dirty movies, which it does not.


  6. “All the teasing about his new haircut made Samir irascible.” If the underlined word means “easily angered or annoyed,” which of the following words, if used in place of “irascible,” would make the sentence mean the same thing?

    Correct Answer:

    touchy

    Answer Explanation:

    The other options all indicate someone is already riled up while “irascible” and “touchy” indicate that it would be easy to rile the person up, but not necessarily that they are already there.


  7. What’s the relationship between “ire,” “irate,” and “irascible”?

    Correct Answer:

    They all indicate someone is angry.

    Answer Explanation:

    “Ire” is the noun form, meaning “anger,” while “irate” is an adjective meaning “angry” and “irascible” is an adjective meaning “easily angered.”


  8. Questions 8-10 refer to the following sentence: “After their beloved house burned to the ground, Isaac was furious, Jamie was inconsolable, and Carrie was miserable. However, Donald and Ziva, who were in France, remained blissfully ignorant of their loss.”

    Based on the descriptions of each member of the family, who was least likely to be able to stop crying?

    Correct Answer:

    Jamie, because “inconsolable” means he couldn’t be comforted.

    Answer Explanation:

    Correct! The prefix “in-” creates a negation of “consolable” – kind of like justice and injustice. So, while “consolable” would mean that he could be comforted, “inconsolable” means that he can’t be comforted and likely can’t stop crying.


  9. The word “however” at the start of the second sentence most likely indicates what?

    Correct Answer:

    Not all of the family members were unhappy.

    Answer Explanation:

    “However” indicates a change in direction, which is explained by the sentence stating that Donald and Ziva were happy because they weren’t home or and did not know about the fire.


  10. Suppose than Donald and Ziva learn about the fire while they are still in France. Which of the following words or phrases is LEAST likely to describe how they feel?

    Correct Answer:

    “they have a bee in their bonnet”

    Answer Explanation:

    This phrase usually describes irritation about a small condition they’re on a crusade to fix, rather than any experience of loss


Aligned Resources

More standards from College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language - Language