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Telling Transitions

Students explore with letters as they make subtle changes from one word to another. Later comes the challenge to string them all together in fun, and often hilarious, sentences!

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 30 Minutes or Less
  • Directions

    1. Before students enter the classroom for the day, write the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" on the board. Ask the kids to pronounce it, then define it; most dictionaries state that it is a nonsensical word from the movie "Mary Poppins." Point out that there are 34 letters in this term! But, the very longest word in the Oxford Dictionary is 189,819 letters long and takes 3 hours to pronounce! Ask students if they can reveal any smaller words within "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Provide time for the exploring to begin. Students my write their observations on a class white board using Crayola Dry Erase Markers.
    2. Write another more common, very long word on the board, such as "compartmentalized." Explain how some letters can be left off and a new word found, as you write underneath it, "compartmentalize", and under that "compartment", and under that "part" Lead students to conclude that "part" can now grow larger as you add affixes to them. Have students suggest affixes to grow a different word than compartmentalized.
    3. Suggest students think of a different large word that they recall from a recent reading. They are to shorten it progressively as demonstrated above. See how many steps can create different words. Ask how this activity might assist students with learning how to spell or pronounce an unfamiliar, long word.
    4. Fold a piece of paper from a Crayola Pad into that many parts. Challenge students to now visually represent each of those words.
    5. Point out that some words are verbs so the image needs to show an action taking place. Have students illustrate with Crayola Markers or Colored Pencils. They may want to show lines around a section to increase attention to it.
    6. Students can now see if they can write one sentence to include all of their words in order. Can they write just one sentence that makes sense, using all of their words and their neighbors? See whose words go together; see whose require much imagination to relate.
    7. Conclude the lesson with sharing of students' creative sentences.
  • Standards

    LA: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology.

    LA: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

    LA: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

    LA: Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., photograph, photosynthesis).

    LA: Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.

    VA: Combine ideas to generate an innovative idea for art-making.

    VA: Collaboratively set goals and create artwork that is meaningful and has purpose to the makers.

    VA: Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, materials, methods, and approaches in making works of art and design.

  • Adaptations

    Challenge students to create word search or other puzzles with very large words.

    Have students write only their largest word on their paper with only the images of the smaller words. Trade papers with peers to see who can come up with the other words (first).

    Have students create the same folded paper, but begin with any very small word and build up to largest word they can create by adding affixes.

    Encourage students to determine the number of syllables in each of their "long" words. Then, with listening skills turned on high, ask which syllable they believe is accented in each term.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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