As children grow and mature, they naturally follow a progression of actions and movements. Children first learn to crawl, then they learn to walk, and finally they learn to gallop, skip, and run. Naturally, children begin to understand the levels of intensity associated with various action words. In this lesson, students will associate those common ideas with the term shades of meaning by ordering actions words based on their level of intensity.

This lesson also continues to build on the concepts of synonyms and antonyms, much like the lesson on opposites. Students have had a chance to look at words that mean the opposite of each other and now they will have the chance to see words that mean the same, but at different levels of meaning.

Getting Started


CLIO Lesson Shades of Meaning Learning Video (You can find this video under the Language Skills tab.)
CLIO Lesson Card, 1 for every group of three students
CLIO Lesson Knowledge Check, 1 per student
Various paint strips from a local home improvement store
Move by Steven Jenkins and Robin Page (optional)
Monsters Can Mosey by Gillia Olson (optional)

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Guided Learning


Begin in a whole group on the carpet while holding a paint strip from a local home improvement store. Ask students if they have ever seen something like this before and what they know about these. Give all students time to think independently, and time to turn and talk to a partner. Finally, give students the chance to share out their background knowledge about paint strips. Explain to students “Just like colors have different shades that can be used for different reasons, words also have different shades or meanings that can be used for different reasons. Today we are going to practice using action words with different levels of meanings.”

There are a few options for the next activity; you may choose from one of the following depending on the needs and interests of your students.

  • Read the book Move by Steven Jenkins and Robin Page, pausing to discuss with students how different animals move and how their movements are more or less intense than others. For example, you can compare the movements of crawl, walk, and run. This activity is best for students who learn best from simple picture books with opportunities to make connections and hold discussions.
  • Read the book Monsters Can Mosey by Gillia Olson, focusing on the words that the author used in order to describe how the monsters can move around. This book will lend itself to a lot of vocabulary work and students can even practice demonstrating what the monsters will look like while they are moving around as described. This activity is best for students with a larger vocabulary and ability to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.

Guided Practice with CLIO Lesson’s Learning Video

Invite students to view the CLIO Lesson Learning Video. After the learning target is displayed, hold a brief discussion about what that sentence means and what they think we can do in order to accomplish that learning target. Continue the video, allowing students to stand up and demonstrate the actions as the video plays. Remind students of appropriate body control as they participate in this activity, but encourage students to act out each action. You may want to have students act things out while staying in the same spot.

As the video plays, students should use the CLIO Lesson card to make connections to the actions being described in the video.

Once the video is over, ask students to turn to a partner and explain what they learned from the video. Circulate around the group to ensure that students understand that we can use different verbs to describe various meanings of actions. Remind students that we can order the words from least intense to most intense just like we can order colors from lightest to darkest. Place students into groups of four and give each group a CLIO Lesson Card and four paint strips. Ask students to work together to do the following:

  1. Cut all the pieces apart.
  2. Group the verbs with other words that describe the same action.
  3. Order the verbs from least intense to most intense.
  4. Glue the verbs on the paint strip in the correct order.



There are a few ways to provide additional support.

  • Help students group the similar verbs so they can focus on ordering them by intensity.
  • Ask particular students to only group and sort two of the different verb groups.
  • Have students act out each verb or action in order to reflect on how much intensity they are using while acting it out.
  • Give particular groups the least and most intense and ask them to order the verbs in between.


Some students will grasp this concept very quickly and can be encouraged to extend their thinking beyond the basic verbs described. Ask students to think of another action word (example – jump) and create shades of meaning verbs that go along with the main verb (hop, leap, etc.)  Invite students to create additional shades of meaning charts on new paint strips. Further enrichment can include drawing illustrations depicting the verbs chosen.

Practice is Key

Shades of Meaning Activities

Using the provided shades of meaning cards, play a fun game of CHARADES of meaning with students. Invite three students up to the front and present the students with a card. Each student will select one of the verbs on the card to act out. The rest of the class will have to guess the verb that each student is acting out, and then order the students according to their shades of meaning. For example, one student will jog, one student will run, and one student will sprint. The rest of the class will guess what they are doing and then put them in order – jog, run, sprint. Continue this activity until all students have had a chance to act something out, or until time runs out.


Knowledge Check

Check for Understanding

To check student understanding of shades of meaning, provide students with the CLIO Knowledge Check. Every student will complete this activity independently in order to see the mastery level of each student. Read the three words at the bottom of the page out loud to students and ask them to silently reflect on what each of those words means and what they would look like. Invite students to act these words out one at a time so they can feel the movements and see how each action looks.

Finally, have students cut the three words out and glue them on the shades of meaning chart. Remind students to glue the least intense word on the lightest color and move to the most intense verb. Use the CLIO Knowledge Check to determine students who have developed mastery of this concept and who might need additional instruction.

Paige Carrasquillo

Paige Carrasquillo

Paige is an elementary school teacher from Texas. She has her undergraduate and graduate degree in Education/Curriculum and Instruction from Baylor University. She is happily married and a mother to twin girls.