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Multiple-Meaning Words: Reuse and Recycle

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this lesson from Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans: Ready-to-Use Resources, K-5 by Lauren Davis. In addition to identifying the standards covered, each lesson in the book includes differentiation ideas, rubrics and scoring guides.

This following lesson is designed to meet Language Standards 4 and 6, Writing Standards 4 and 10 and Speaking and Listening Standard 4.


Students are asked to learn multiple-meaning words from kindergarten onward. With that in mind, you can adapt this lesson to any elementary grade level by choosing a list of multiple-meaning words that your students need to learn or review. For grades K and 1, omit the use of the dictionary and increase the emphasis on drawing pictures to help convey meaning.

Common Core State Standards

  • Language, Standard 4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 3 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies. a. Use sentence-level context as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase. b. Use glossaries or beginning dictionaries, both print and digital, to determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.
  • Language, Standard 6: Acquire and accurately use grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases.
  • Writing, Standard 4: With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.
  • Writing, Standard 10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
  • Speaking and Listening, Standard 4: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.


  • Students will review the concept of multiple-meaning words.
  • Students will determine the meanings of multiple-meaning words using dictionaries and prior knowledge.
  • Students will write sentences and paragraphs to demonstrate correct use of multiple-meaning words in context.

Materials Needed


Introduction: Pass out the paper and pencils, and write the word bat on the board. Ask students to write a sentence that tells something about a bat. Don’t answer questions such as “Do you mean a baseball bat?” or “Do you mean a bat that flies?” Just restate your instructions to write a sentence.

Ask five or six volunteers to read their sentences so that students see that bat can mean a piece of sporting equipment or a flying mammal. If someone uses bat as a verb, that’s okay too. Tell students that words such as bat are multiple-meaning words. This means they have more than one meaning. Readers need to see the word in a sentence to know how a writer or speaker is using the word.

Partner Work: Write a list of multiple-meaning words on the board. Suggestions are saw, ball, sheet, bank, fall, glass, border, and swallow. Organize students into pairs and assign each pair a word. Pass out copies of this handout and dictionaries. Have each pair of students complete the handout using their assigned word, the dictionary, and their own knowledge.

Full-Class Discussion: Have pairs share their results with the class. Clarify or correct their findings if necessary.

Note: You can break the lesson here, continuing on another day.

Wrap-Up: The Common Core emphasizes the importance of placing skills and knowledge in the larger context of reading and writing. With this in mind, for homework or an in-class assignment, have students write short articles for a class portfolio. The theme of the portfolio is Facts and Fiction. Each student must write a text that uses a multiple-meaning word to show at least two meanings of the word. The purpose of the text is either to give information (fact) or to tell a story (fiction). Students should choose the purpose of their writing. If they are learning keyboarding skills, ask them to type their articles. Staple the articles together, and display the portfolio in the classroom so that students can read it during free time.

Extend the Lesson

Give students a week to collect as many multiple-meaning words as they can. Have them keep a log that lists each word, where they read it or heard it, its meaning, and how it could be used to mean something different. To incorporate speaking and listening standards, have each student use his or her notes to teach one multiple-meaning word to the class. You could spread this activity out over days or weeks.


For students who need extra support, on a poster or chart page, complete a model of the handout using a word that is not part of the assignment. Walk students through an examination of each piece of information in the model. Or create a blank model, and think aloud as you complete it as a demonstration.
For advanced students, organize students into pairs, and give them the option of completing a second handout using words they choose from your list or their own knowledge.


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