Common Core Standards: ELA
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Craft and Structure
RL.9-10.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
“Figurative” and “connotative” are two words that almost never come up in conversation - but they stand for two concepts that almost always come up in conversation. Both terms describe words that “stand in” for an image, an idea, or some related concept that is larger than the mere dictionary definition of the word. The figurative and connotative meanings of words, because they imply something larger than themselves, create the feel, meaning, and tone of a text. This is the reason that some words can also evoke a sense of time or place; using words that have obsolete connotations indicates that a text or a piece of dialogue “comes from” some time other than here and now.
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Using this Standard
- 1984 Teacher Pass
- A Rose For Emily Teacher Pass
- A View from the Bridge Teacher Pass
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Teacher Pass
- Animal Farm Teacher Pass
- Antigone Teacher Pass
- Beowulf Teacher Pass
- Fahrenheit 451 Teacher Pass
- Fences Teacher Pass
- Frankenstein Teacher Pass
- Hamlet Teacher Pass
- Heart of Darkness Teacher Pass
- Julius Caesar Teacher Pass
- Macbeth Teacher Pass
- Moby Dick Teacher Pass
- Narrative of Frederick Douglass Teacher Pass
- Oedipus the King Teacher Pass
- Of Mice and Men Teacher Pass
- Othello Teacher Pass
- Romeo and Juliet Teacher Pass
- The Aeneid Teacher Pass
- The As I Lay Dying Teacher Pass
- The Bluest Eye Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales General Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Cask of Amontillado Teacher Pass
- The Catcher in the Rye Teacher Pass
- The Crucible Teacher Pass
- The Iliad Teacher Pass
- The Odyssey Teacher Pass
- The Old Man and the Sea Teacher Pass
- Their Eyes Were Watching God Teacher Pass
- Things Fall Apart Teacher Pass
- To Kill a Mockingbird Teacher Pass
Sample Activities for Use in Class
“Personification” is a kind of figurative language in which a non-human animal or object is given human qualities.
On a sheet of paper, have each student construct five to ten sentences that use personification. If students are unsure where to begin, you may wish to give them a form or a list of non-human objects and a list of verbs, having the students pick one of each and put them together into sentences. Students should leave two or three empty lines beneath each sentence. Some examples include:
The plates danced on the shelves as the earthquake hit.
The thunder roared its anger across the sky.
I used to have $5.00 in my jeans pocket, but it escaped when I did the laundry last weekend.
Once students have created their sentences, have them switch papers with another student. On their new paper, have each student write, in the space underneath each personification sentence, the thing being personified and what human actions, qualities, or emotions it is said to have.
An “idiom” is an expression that uses words to paint a picture, and not for their literal dictionary meanings. For instance, “it’s raining cats and dogs” is an idiom that means “it’s raining very hard” – and not “Animals are falling from the sky.” All languages have idioms, but not all languages share the same idioms. An idiom in one language may seem very natural to the speakers of that language, but may make no sense at all when it is translated into another language.
For this activity, use an overhead projector, blackboard, or some other means to project each of the following idioms so that the entire class can see it, one at a time. Read or have a student read each idiom, and then have students discuss what they think each one means. You can also have students write down what they think each one means, then “check” the answers with students to see how many guessed correctly.
Sample Idioms in Non-English Languages (translated):
1. I don’t have a camel in that caravan. (Arabic)
Meaning: That issue doesn’t concern me. (Compare “I don’t have a dog in this fight.”)
2. Stop ironing my head! (Armenian)
Meaning: Stop bothering me! Used when someone’s constant asking or begging for something is becoming a bother.
3. The turtle is shrouded. (Cheyenne)
Meaning: It’s foggy out. (Think of the turtle as the earth, covered in a “shroud” of fog.)
4. to walk around hot porridge (Czech)
Meaning: to avoid getting to the point. (Compare: to beat around the bush.)
5. to make something out of wood and paint it red (Estonian)
Meaning: to make something very clear
6. I have other cats to whip! (French)
Meaning: I have other things to do. (Compare: I have other fish to fry.)
7. to have one’s eyes lined with ham (Italian)
Meaning: to be unable to see what is directly in sight. (Compare: can’t see the forest for the trees)
8. Even monkeys fall from trees. (Japanese)
Meaning: Even experts get it wrong sometimes.
9. to hang noodles on one’s ears (Russian)
Meaning: to tell lies or talk nonsense.
10. to put up a beer tent (Turkish)
Meaning: to get married. (Compare: to tie the knot)
Quiz 1 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Quiz 2 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Questions 1-10 are based on the following excerpt:
"Ladies," said he, turning to his family, "Miss Temple, teachers, and children, you all see this girl?"
Of course they did; for I felt their eyes directed like burning-glasses against my scorched skin.
"You see she is yet young; you observe she possesses the ordinary form of childhood; God has graciously given her the shape that He has given to all of us; no signal deformity points her out as a marked character. Who would think that the Evil One had already found a servant and agent in her? Yet such, I grieve to say, is the case."
A pause--in which I began to steady the palsy of my nerves, and to feel that the Rubicon was passed; and that the trial, no longer to be shirked, must be firmly sustained.
"My dear children," pursued the black marble clergyman, with pathos, "this is a sad, a melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty to warn you, that this girl, who might be one of God's own lambs, is a little castaway: not a member of the true flock, but evidently an interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her example; if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse. Teachers, you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinise her actions, punish her body to save her soul: if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for (my tongue falters while I tell it) this girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut--this girl is--a liar!"
Now came a pause of ten minutes, during which I, by this time in perfect possession of my wits, observed all the female Brocklehursts produce their pocket-handkerchiefs and apply them to their optics, while the elderly lady swayed herself to and fro, and the two younger ones whispered, "How shocking!" Mr. Brocklehurst resumed.
"This I learned from her benefactress; from the pious and charitable lady who adopted her in her orphan state, reared her as her own daughter, and whose kindness, whose generosity the unhappy girl repaid by an ingratitude so bad, so dreadful, that at last her excellent patroness was obliged to separate her from her own young ones, fearful lest her vicious example should contaminate their purity: she has sent her here to be healed, even as the Jews of old sent their diseased to the troubled pool of Bethesda; and, teachers, superintendent, I beg of you not to allow the waters to stagnate round her."
- Jane Eyre, Chapter 7
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