School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 2

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 7. Identify and describe the author's use of language

Objective b. Identify specific words and phrases that contribute to the meaning of a text


All authors craft their stories by choosing just the right words to express the emotions and ideas that are important to the characters and events in the story. A simple story to show how authors use their words is the book, Princesses are Not Quitters! by Kate Lum. In this story, three princesses are bored so they decide to switch places with the servant girls for one day. To emphasize how hard the work is for the princesses, the author builds long sentences stringing together several phrases beginning with strong verbs or connecting words to describe the chores that they do in the morning, afternoon and evening. She places the words that show the work being done in all caps for emphasis. All of the phrases are strung together with the word “and”. These long sentences cause the reader to get out of breath just like the characters would in accomplishing the many tasks. In each case the author strings together 12 words and phrases in the morning sentence, 12 strong words and phrases in the afternoon, and 15 strong words and phrases in the evening. The author ends the story in similar style by stringing together phrases in the princesses’ proclamation that calls for the servants to have fun. After doing a shared reading of the text, have students list the words that the author emphasized through the use of capital letters to describe the chores. Sort the words into two categories using a chart like the one below. Discuss the fact that most of the words were “chore/work” verbs. The author did this in order to show the reader how hard the princesses found the servants work to be. This is how the author got her meaning across to the reader.

Verbs Not Verbs
Sleep in



Another approach to examining word choice is to look at a book that incorporates foreign words. Two texts that take different approaches with this are The Old Man & His Door by Gary Soto and Baloney (Henry P.) by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. In the first text, Gary Soto incorporates Spanish words as he tells the story of an old man from Mexico who doesn’t listen to his wife and as a result he brings a door to a picnic instead of a pig. The words for pig and door are very similar in Spanish and the story problem is dependent on that confusion. The author provides a glossary to the Spanish words but in most cases the context carries the meaning. In the second text, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith create a futuristic story about an alien who is late for school. When the teacher threatens him with “Permanent Lifelong Detention” he makes up an unbelievable tale about why he is late. The authors incorporate alien words throughout the telling of the story but reveal at the end that these alien words are really words that they borrowed from other languages. Once again, the authors provide a glossary of terms that includes both their meaning and their language of origin. In both of these texts the teacher could conduct a shared reading activity and guide students to determine the meanings of the foreign words. Talk about why the author chose to incorporate the words and how it affects overall meaning in the stories.


To introduce the students to the idea of denotation and connotation of words, select specific sentences from a text which contain words that show how author’s choice of words demonstrates this concept. For example, in the text Goldilocks Returns by Lisa Campbell Ernst, select the sentence “Then Goldilocks grew up, and the older she got the worse she felt about her horrid behavior.” Point out how the author italicized the word horrid for emphasis. Consult an online children’s dictionary for the definition of horrid. The American Heritage dictionary at gives the following definition: “causing horror; dreadful”. Show the students word cards containing the following synonyms for horrid: bad, poor, awful, and unsatisfactory. Have volunteers reread the sentence with each word card substituting for horrid. Ask if each word makes sense in the sentence. Now give each pair of students copies of the word cards plus the word horrid and ask them to arrange the words from the weakest to the strongest. There is no one way for students to place the cards. Have students share their responses and compare the ordering. Ask students to state why they placed each word where they did. Discuss how sometimes authors choose words because they want to appeal to the student’s emotions. Although there were other words to choose for this sentence the author chose horrid because it was a very strong word and he wanted us to feel just how horrible Goldilocks felt about what she had done. Continue examining sentences in this book for examples of how word choice can make us feel negative or positive about a character, their actions, etc. in a story:

  • “They won’t have to eat this nasty tasting stuff anymore…”
  • “Now to fix those ghastly chairs.”
  • Goldi hung hoity-toity drapes, scattered pillows, and covered all the furniture with shiny plastic covers.
  • Papa Bear snarled at the sight of the table, and bellowed in his big, deep voice,…


Look for examples of how authors use words to convey meaning through both their denotative and connotative meanings in your guided reading texts. Determine if the choice of words had a positive, negative or neutral effect on the reader. Point out that sometimes a word by itself could be either positive or negative but that it depends on the context or meaning of the text around it that ultimately determines the feeling.