What is a contronym?

Contronyms with Shurley.jpg

Have you ever noticed that several language arts terms have the letters o-n-y-m in them?  I’m talking about words like synonym, antonym, homonym, heteronym, acronym, etc.  Of course, the list goes on, but here’s what you need to know about all of these words:

Onym is actually a Greek root word that means “name.”  So, in context, when you see a word with this root, you can conclude that it names something; you just have to figure out what!      

Most 1st -8th grade curriculums purposefully teach students about synonyms and antonyms as a way to (a.) increase their vocabulary, (b.) improve their reading comprehension, and (c.) learn effective strategies to improve and expand their writing.  These two categories are not only imperative to learn about concepts in other subject areas; they are also tested on the SAT and GRE.

A synonym is the name of the category of words that mean the same or almost the same thing.  An example might include words like “intelligent” and “smart.”  An Antonym, on the other hand, is the name of the category of words that have opposite meanings like “hot” and “cold. “ 

The purpose of this blog is not to define every onym word for you, so allow me to fast forward to my big ah-ha moment…

As I continued to review the list of language arts related onym words, I stumbled on one that intrigued me: contronyms.   As a teacher, I had never taught this term much less required my students to learn about them or identify them in a sentence. That’s why I’m sharing them now! 

A contronym is the name of a category of words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same yet are opposite in meaning. They are described as words that are their own antonyms.  To further explain, let’s use the contronym bill as an example.

Contronym: bill

Description: You can have a $50 bill in your pocket, or you can receive a $50 bill for some sort of service you obtained.

Explanation: In the first example, “bill” means a piece of paper money; a $50 credit. In the second example, “bill” refers to an invoice you receive that tells you how much money you owe. In other words, it means that you have a $50 debt. Bill and bill are contronyms.

Rational: Even though the word “bill” looks the same and sounds the same in both sentences, it means the exact opposite in each. Bill describes money you can spend in the first example, while bill describes a debt that you owe in the second one.

You can give your students the knowledge, skills, and practice they need to know and use contronyms, starting with the list of contronyms below:

Contronyms with Shurley English.png

Spring Bulletin Board: See How We've Grown!

Spring Bulletin Board with Shurley English.jpg

It’s not always easy to see how much we’ve grown in one year, especially for a child.  Physical growth might be the most noticeable because we can feel it in several ways.  For instance, we can tell when our clothes are too big or too small; they don’t fit right.  We know when our feet have grown because our shoes are too tight, and our feet hurt.  Also, we can tell when our hair has grown when it starts covering our eyes and ears. 

Intellectual growth, on the other hand, is much more difficult to notice.  Other people, like a parent or teacher, seem to notice this type of growth before the individual realizes it!  Everyone enjoys being told how much they’ve grown intellectually, so here’s a way for you to do that in your classroom.

Image Source:  Volunteer Spot

Image Source: Volunteer Spot

Throughout the year, Shurley English students have spent a lot of time building their vocabulary skills to improve their word choice strategies.  They have created their own synonym/antonym booklet, a vocabulary notebook or notecards, and also learned how to use “Power Words” in their writing.  Now, they can use all of these learning tools to help create a spring bulletin board. This bulletin board idea gives your students an opportunity to reflect on the words they’ve learned  and written in their notebooks and to realize how their vocabulary word bank has grown. 

Below are the steps to follow in order to build a “See How We’ve Grown” garden in your classroom:

Step 1: Create a Synonym List:

Materials Needed:

  • Synonym/Antonym Booklet

  • Vocabulary Notebook/Vocabulary Notecards

  • Power Words (found in Shurley English Student Textbook)

  • Shurley English Student Textbook

  • Thesaurus

  • Paper

  • Pencil

To Do:

  1. As a class, create a list of basic words your students overused at the beginning of the year.  (e.g., good, bad, friend, happy, sad, etc.) 

  2. Allow students to work in pairs and assign basic words to each group. 

  3. Have each pair create a list of three to five synonyms for their assigned word(s). 

  4. Encourage students to use their Shurley English resources and a thesaurus to complete the activity.

  5. Monitor students’ work by walking around the room to assist each group.

 

Step 2: Create Vocabulary Flower:

Materials Needed:

  • Circles (pre-cut)

  • Long strips of colored paper (pre-cut)

  • Glue

  • Stapler

  • Black markers

  • Pipe cleaners

  • Green leaves (pre-cut or *create a pattern)

  • *Green construction paper

  • *Scissors

To Do:

  1. Write the basic word in the center of the circle with a black marker.

  2. Write the synonym for that word on half of the long strip of paper.

  3. Loop the long strip of paper so the half with writing on it is on top. (See example below.)

  4. Glue the two ends of the loop together.

  5. Repeat for each synonym.

  6. Once all leaf-loops are constructed for that basic word, glue or staple the leaves under the circle to complete the flower.

  7. Students continue to create flowers to fill your bulletin board. (You might even want to add a clothesline with a few writing pieces on them.)

Source:  IMGLabs

Source: IMGLabs

 Finally, use your own creative flare to build a beautiful spring garden that showcases your students’ growth!  Don’t forget to discuss and celebrate their growth as a class.  When our efforts and growth are recognized, the acknowledgement gives us the extra motivation to keep going.  This is a wonderful way to keep your students engaged and excited about finishing the school year.

 

The Playbook of Literary Success: Vocabulary

Playbook with Shurley English.jpg

What if elementary teachers approached the subject of Language Arts as if it was a competitive sport?  Just think of it… every K-8 teacher would be part of a coaching staff charged with developing players’ language arts knowledge and skills.  In this analogy, the playbook contains plays designed to help each team member achieve literacy success, which is the ultimate goal of the game!  The knowledge and skills learned by each team member will grow into great competence, and every time these competencies are used to practice or compete, confidence will grow.  

Every coach has a secret book of plays, right? Wouldn’t you want to know the secret strategies from the coach’s playbook? Over the next few weeks, we plan to give you a sneak-peek at the playbook and a checklist for each play, including vocabulary, grammar, composition, and writing for all purposes. You will be able to use the checklist to ensure that your special team executes each play with competence and confidence.

Competence and Confidence with Shurley English.png

LITERACY PLAYBOOK: Part 1, Vocabulary

The first play in our Literacy Playbook is vocabulary development. Why? Because students need a broad knowledge of words that they can manipulate to make meaning. When students can expertly use words to communicate precisely, it will up the odds that they will be top contenders in a competition that stretches far past the boundaries of our analogy.  Students who can wield their words with confidence have a greater advantage in their future careers. To help them achieve such a “win,” teach students vocabulary in a “play-by-play” approach that includes the following aspects:

For the primary levels:

·Basic alphabetic principle, letter/sound relationships and spelling

·Phonics, word patterns, and syllabication

 For the intermediate levels:

· Word meaning in multiple contexts

· Word relationships (homophones, homographs, synonyms, antonyms)

· Word analogies

· Word etymology

· Figurative language and literary devices (similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, etc.)

In Shurley English, vocabulary study “goes deep and runs wide,” and every student who is versed in the study of each of these areas of vocabulary will acquire the built-in word knowledge to become a competent and confident master of language.

As you reflect upon your current practice time with vocabulary, consider running these plays like you would run with any other team sport. Using a checklist like this will help you become a reflective teacher, one who always thinks about their craft and conducts active research about what works and what doesn’t. Use the areas listed above like a list of plays you want your students to practice and master.  Observe your students carefully and check for their level of engagement.  If they need more practice, call for extra practice!

Start with this question: “Am I stretching my students’ word knowledge by adding in …”

· Word meaning in multiple contexts?

· Word relationships (homophones, homographs, synonyms, antonyms)?

· Word analogies?

· Word etymology?

· Figurative language and literary devices (similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, etc.)?

 

Don’t worry, Shurley English provides the “playbook,” and when you teach it like you would the secret plays from a coach’s playbook, your students will gain the competitive edge they need in the future. Their ability to read, write, and speak in a variety of situations and for various purposes will equip them with the excellent communication skills that are in high demand in every field. Stay tuned for our next installment!