Vocabulary Activity: The Allegory of the (Vocabulary) Words
While I love reading novels with great vocabulary, it is rare that fiction inspires me to a new and unusual vocabulary lesson plan...
…but I just finished listening to the novel Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, a favorite YA author of mine who also wrote the Dairy Queen series. Wisdom’s Kiss, like DJ in the Dairy Queen series, boasts a strong female protagonist, but this time her name is Fortitude.
When I first heard her name aloud, I got excited! Fortitude is one of my sophomore’s first vocabulary words and we spend time talking each year about who has fortitude and who doesn’t—and now a novelist named her protagonist for that virtue! In fact, in the novel everyone from a certain realm in the kingdom is named for a virtue, including the character Wisdom (thus the title-it’s the consequences of her kiss).
The names started me thinking about, of course, Pilgrim’s Progress, the classic tale about Christian (aka the everyman) and his meeting with various virtues and vices…which then lead me to thinking about the concept of allegory and then to the idea of having the students write an allegory with vocabulary words! Ohhh what fun it could be writing such a tale:
It was a raucous night and Adulterate and Vice met up with Inopportune and Raze and had a bit too much fun.
The next day, they were forced by their school headmistress, Miss Infallible, to hang out with Ameliorate and Benevolent. However, the miscreants brought along Beguile, Insidious and Duplicity, so Ameliorate and Benevolent took off. The troublemakers, always up for another adventure, headed to Park Nadir and caused total destruction.
Finally, their parents, including Mr. Vanguard, Ms. Integrity and Mr. Decorum, hired a drill instructor, Panacea, who led the boys off to a place where they could be cured of all that ailed them.
Moral of the story: Sometimes it takes tough love rather than kindness for people to see the error of their ways.
This exercise geared towards vocabulary instruction can be as long studied as a culmination activity for a unit (with a longer, more complex tale) or a short begin-the-period prompt to play with the words of the week (see my example above-sorry for the weak moral). From elementary to high school, I think all students enjoy personification and giving them an unusual writing prompt could lead to some rewarding results!
I created a rubric to go along with the vocabulary lesson plan- please feel free to modify it as you need.
If you try out this activity, or have a similar one that you want to share, please post your ideas, feedback or student examples below! I look forward to your thoughts on this activity.
Common Core Standards: This activity hits these three but it REALLY hits Standard 5 for Vocabulary Acquisition!!
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use Standard 4: Determining Word Meaning. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues…
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use Standard 5: Nuanced and Figurative Word Meaning and Usage. Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meaning. Interpret figures of speech in context. Use the relationship between particular words to better understand each of the words. Distinguish among the connotations of words with similar denotations.
Reading Text (Literary and Informational) Standard 4: Craft and Structure. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text…