More Than Rhyme: Poetry Fundamentals   Western Reserve Public Media
Why Teach Poetry? Resources Teacher Materials Watch Online Introduction to Poetry Tools Used in Poetry Applying the Tools
Tools Used in Poetry




After students review double denotation, they will learn about connotation. They will then look at two poems and discuss the terms used. There is a formative evaluation at the end.


Standards Addressed

Reading Standards for Literature 7-12

  • 7th/8th grade Craft and Structure, number 4

  • 7th/8th grade Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, number 10

  • 9th/10th and 11th/12th grade Craft and Structure, number 4

  • 9th/10th and 11th/12th grade Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, number 10





  1. Pass out note-taking materials.

  2. Review the Double Denotation lesson by asking students to make a “one-word-at-a-time” sentence on the board that explains why double denotation can be described as “purposely powerful.” Hand the chalk to one student and allow that person to write only one word. The student must then pass the chalk. The class must work together and separately at the same time to review their thoughts and come up with one complete and coherent sentence. (Double denotation can be thought of as purposely powerful because it causes momentary confusion and thereby forces the reader to stop, examine and think.)

  3. Pass out plain paper. Tell the students that they will be drawing a picture that must be large enough for everyone in the class to see from the front of the room. Details are not largely important because they will only have two minutes to draw. They must also be completely silent so that nothing they say will influence the pictures of their classmates. They cannot look at each other’s work, nor are they allowed to ask questions. Then, when all are prepared, instruct them to draw a floozy. After two minutes, collect the papers. Quietly select the pictures that best represent a trashy woman, followed by the nonconforming ones. Then show the pictures that work well for your lesson, simply stopping without explanation when you get to those that don’t. Ask for students’ comments and lead them into a definition for connotation: the pictures and feelings that go beyond the denotative meaning.

  4. Continue discussion with pairs of words such as ma and pa vs. mother and father. Discuss the differences. The Connotative Sets worksheet can be used to guide discussion.

  5. Continue the discussion with product names. Ask the class if they would wash their faces with a soap that the manufacturers called Pigeon instead of Dove. (Probably not — a dove connotes something pure and white; a pigeon connotes something dirty.) Have students list products that are named solely for the word’s connotation. (Examples include White Rain shampoo, Snuggle fabric softener, Ford Mustang, Country Blend butter, Dodge Ram trucks.)

  6. Review the poem “Throw Away.” Why did the author use the dumpster in a trailer park rather than a town house, condominium or apartment building?

  7. Instruct the class to add the definition of connotation to their Poetry Notes handout.

  8. Discuss the origins of connotations. Sample lead questions: Why would someone think twice before naming a child Adolf (historic connotation)? How has the name Homer changed (literature and popular media)? Why aren’t any parents naming their children Judas anymore (Biblical reference)?

  9. Read “Hazel Tells Laverne” to the class. Discuss why the word “bowl” couldn’t have been “commode.” (It is too dignified and classy of a word in this application.)

  10. Use the handout Rich or Poor? as a means to solidify the understanding of connotation and to teach indirectly the vocabulary necessary for the next poem. Have student discuss and report which phrases they would chose if they were writing about a poor and homeless person. They should justify their answers by explaining any connotations.

  11. Read the poem “Richard Cory” to the class. Allow the students to speak freely at the end of the reading; they’ll probably begin to propose reasons why Mr. Cory kills himself. After some time, point out that you don’t know why he did, but you do know that the author was able to reach out from the grave and manipulate their emotions because they are showing obvious concern. Then have them decide whether or not they’d care as much if the author hadn’t set Mr. Cory so high with connotative phrases in the first three stanzas that his fall in the last was such a surprise. Copyright© Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. All rights reserved.
Denotation and Double Denotation Connotation Sound Repetition Personification Imagery Comparisons Hyperbole and Understatement Formative Evaluation Connotative Sets “Hazel Tells Laverne” “Rich or Poor?” “Richard Cory” Enjambed Lines and Word Placement