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This lesson provided by:
Author:Lauren Rittenberry
System: Tuscaloosa County
School: Duncanville Middle School
Lesson Plan ID: 33176

Connotation and Denotation in "My Papa's Waltz"


Students will review the meanings of connotation and denotation.  Students will apply knowledge of connotation and denotation to "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke.

This is a College- and Career-Ready Standards showcase lesson plan.

Content Standard(s):
ELA2015(9) 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). [RL.9-10.4]
ELA2015(9) 5. Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise. [RL.9-10.5]
Local/National Standards:  
Primary Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will review the meaning of connotation and denotation.
  • Students will apply knowledge of connotation and denotation to the poem "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke.
  • Students will annotate "My Papa's Waltz."
Additional Learning Objective(s):  
Approximate Duration of the Lesson: 31 to 60 Minutes
Materials and Equipment:

  • Highlighters
  • copies of the poem "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke
Technology Resources Needed:

  • Students should have prior knowledge of connotation and denotation.
  • Students should have prior experience annotating text for specific elements.
  • Bellringer: Talk with a partner to review the meanings of connotation and denotation.  With your partner, talk about the difference in meanings using the words "house" and "home."
  • Introduce the activity by using the following introduction:

Close your eyes and think back to your clearest memory from when you were a small child. Do you remember where you were? What you were wearing? What you were doing before, during, and after? Do you remember specific colors, smells, sounds?

Have students share their thoughts and experiences with the whole group.

  1. Read the poem aloud to students as they listen.
  2. Either provide the students with a copy of the poem or have them access the poem via the internet at Have students read the poem themselves and contemplate possible meanings of the poems.  Discuss possible meanings as a whole group.
  3. Have students annotate the poem for connotation and denotation.  Have them mark words that can be perceived as positive and mark differently words that can be perceived as negative.  If you provide students with a copy of the text, they may use highlighters to annotate.  If students are using computers and internet to annotate text, they may copy and paste the text into a Google Doc and use the highlight feature to annotate the text on the computer.  Finished products may be shared and submitted via Google Chrome.
  4. After students have submitted annotated poems, as a whole group, discuss possible annotations.  Draw a T-chart on the board, one side being positive and one being negative.  Have students come to the board and fill in the chart with some of their responses.  (You may provide another copy of the text for them to view as they complete this part of the lesson.) The chart may include:

Positive – waltz, papa, romped, held

Negative– whiskey, dizzy, death, unfrown, battered, scraped, beat, caked hard by dirt

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Assessment Strategies:

  • Informal assessment by walking around the room during bellringer to monitor discussions between partners.
  • Assess by reviewing connotations and denotations with whole group.
  • Assess by discussing possible meanings of the poem.
  • Assess completed annotated poems.  In order to receive credit, student must have at least two words/phrases marked for both positive and negative meanings.  Annotations must be clearly marked and easily understood.
  • Whole group activity with T-chart at culmination of lesson will assess general student understanding of the lesson.

Higher level learners may be required to annotate for more words/phrases.

Higher level learners may be required to annotate text for figurative language other than connotations and denotations.


Struggling learners may be provided with definitions and examples of connotation and denotation at the beginning of the class. 

Struggling learners may be provided with  a copy of the text with highlighted examples already marked on the text prior to beginning their own annotations. 

Struggling learners may be partnered with a peer for the annotation portion of the lesson.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior

Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.
Variations Submitted by ALEX Users:
Alabama Virtual Library
Alabama Virtual Library

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Malone Family Foundation
The Malone Family Foundation
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