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The nuance of vocabulary and how WordMasters aligns with Common Core

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Today I want to focus on the word nuance, which is derived from a French word meaning “shades” (as in small differences in color).  Borrowing once again from Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl’s 101 Words to Sound Smart:

In English, a nuance is a subtle difference.  You can think of it as shades of meaning, taste, color or feeling with only slight differences, just as there is a slight difference in color between fern and forest green crayons.

Fogarty goes on to include this wonderful excerpt from journalist Henry Hazlitt’s Thinking as a Science:

A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker.  The richer and more copious one’s vocabulary and the greater one’s awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one’s thinking.  Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together.  If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.

The WordMasters Challenge is designed to encourage students to explore the nuances of language – to know not only what a word means, but also how to use it in conversation or composition.  If your school is implementing the Common Core State Standards, note how the skills developed through WordMasters are specifically targeted through the following standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.5:  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.5b:  Use the relationship between particular words (e.g. cause/effect, part/whole, item/category) to better understand each of the words.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8.5c: Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions), e.g. bullheaded, willful, firm, persistent, resolute.

More on how WordMasters aligns with the Common Core State Standards to come!



Wonderful Words: Poignant

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Yes, I am a self-proclaimed word nerd and I love to read about words.  Here’s another interesting tidbit from Mignon Fogarty, author of Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know.

Something poignant is painfully moving, keenly felt, or sharply experienced.  Poignant comes from a Latin word that meant “to prick” and a later Old French word that meant “to prick or sting” and may be related to the word pungent, which has a similar meaning but is more likely to be applied to a taste or a smell.

Okay, so now try your hand at solving these WordMasters Challenge analogies from the archives using poignant and pungent.


POIGNANT : MAUDLIN :: DRAMA : ­­­­­­­­­­______________________________

  5. NOVEL


SOUP : PUNGENT :: STORY : _____________________________



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– 6th grade teacher from Florida

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