As I sat down to write about Reading Standard 4, Hamlet’s “words, words, words” rattles around my mind. To be familiar with standard 4 is to be connected to those invisible choices and non-choices that are packed into text consideration. Reading standard 4 is not simply defining words, as in the old Washington GLEs; reading standard 4 is about the love of language and the precision found in language. Unlike standard 3, the deviation is small between literary and informational. Perhaps, this lies mainly in the simplicity of the informational standards. By the time you hit grade 6, there really is not much difference between informational and literary standards.
Take a look at the differences, what first strikes you about the changes between grade levels?
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)
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).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.
It’s Not All About the Unknown
Standard 4, more than standards one, two, and three, has a very close connections between the foundation started in K-5 and the analysis found in 6-12. From kindergarten to fifth grade, the standards are mainly concerned with the meaning of words based upon criteria like allusions, connotation, etc. Grades 6-12 take these criteria and use them as the lenses for analysis. You can see such an example as when 1st grade lays the foundation for grade 6’s introduction of “tone”. In grade 1, students choose words because of the “feelings” or “senses”.
I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t realized how much the standards had de-emphasized unknown words. What’s interesting is that the choice of words to study is not because they are unknown or hard to understand, like in kindergarten. By 1st grade, the emphasis gravitates towards words to add to text craft and meaning. When crafting my practice, it’s vital to ask, “how does this word fit into the text’s craft?” and “how does this words relate meaning and help build students’ analysis and love of language?”
K-5: Layers of an Onion
Immediately, the image of an onion popped into my head when looking at the K-5 standards, where each layer represents a way to understand the word meaning. What’s important, I think is to remember what layers occurred prior to each grade level. As we all know, teaching a concept one year still needs emphasis in the following years. So, even though the specific grade-level emphasizes a foundation of meaning, it should be expected that previous foundations still need to be refined and taught.
What layers to word meaning are identified?
- Feeling and Senses (1st grade)
- Rhyme and Rhythm (2nd grade)
- Literal vs. Nonliteral (3rd grade)
- Allusion (4th grade)
- Figurative Language—metaphors/similes (5th grade)
6-12: Analysis of the meaning layers.
The layers that were introduced in grades K-5 now get revisited and analyzed as a choice. Essentially, there are 3 foundations of analysis introduced in grades 6-8 that combine and introduce vocabulary words associated with the layers of word meaning in the lower grades. Thus, grade nine can say “impact of word choice on meaning and tone” and it’s understood that allusions, rhymes, figurative, connotative, and analogies are implied in the lenses. Instead of emphasizing how words have various meaning, grade 9-10 move the students to consider “cumulative impact” and grade 11-12 leaves the student considering freshness and beauty, very vague, non-concrete meaning.
So, when you think about standard 4 and word meaning, what do you think is the emphasis? How often have you considered the previous grade levels when unpacking “impact of word choice”?
Check out my next post on how word meaning is used in Informational Standard 4.
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