Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

That Which We Call a Rose

Connotation and Denotation in Romeo and Juliet

Shelby Blackwood | Published: May 31st, 2022 by K20 Center


Do words matter? Does our choice of words affect the attitudes of others? In this lesson, students will explore the denotation and connotation of different words from Romeo and Juliet and how word choice affects understanding and perception of an author’s writing. This is a multimodality lesson, which means it includes face-to-face, online, and hybrid versions of the lesson. The attachments also include a downloadable Common Cartridge file, which can be imported into a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas or eKadence. The cartridge includes interactive student activities and teacher's notes.

Essential Question(s)

How can language and word choice impact attitudes?



Students view a clip from the play Romeo and Juliet and respond to a prompt about the clip.


Students are provided with vocabulary words from Romeo and Juliet. Students then sort the words based on the emotions or associations they evoke.


Students explain how they chose to sort the words from the Explore phase. They then view and summarize two videos explaining the difference between connotation and denotation.


After they have summarized the two videos, students create an Anchor Chart using the most relevant information they have learned.


Using Flipgrid, students create a video reflection of their new understanding of connotation and denotation.

Instructional Formats

The term "Multimodality" refers to the ability of a lesson to be offered in more than one modality (i.e. face-to-face, online, blended). This lesson has been designed to be offered in multiple formats, while still meeting the same standards and learning objectives. Though fundamentally the same lesson, you will notice that the different modalities may require the lesson to be approached differently. Select the modality that you are interested in to be taken to the section of the course designed for that form of instruction.



  • Anchor Chart Rubric (attached)

  • Card Sort (Virtual) (attached)

  • Card Sort handout (attached; one per student)

  • Discussion Post Rubric (attached)

  • Flipgrid Presentation Rubric (attached)

  • H-Chart (Virtual) (attached)

  • H-Chart handout (attached; one per student)

  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Talk Moves (attached; optional)

  • Chart paper (or similar)

  • Markers

  • Sticky notes



30 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to follow along with this lesson. Begin with slide 3. Read aloud the essential question: How can language and word choice impact attitudes? Ask students to consider this question and volunteer their responses. Then, move to slide 4, and briefly read aloud the lesson objectives. Explain to students that they will be analyzing the connotation and denotation of words and determining how important word choice is in reading and writing. Do not explain what denotation and connotation are yet—students should discover the meaning of these words later in the lesson.

Display slide 5. Play the video on the slide: Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet.

Display slide 6. After viewing the video, present the prompt on the slide to students: In Act II, Scene II of Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says this phrase in reference to family and the family name of Romeo: "What's in a name? / That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet."

Ask students to consider this. Then, ask students to use a notebook or piece of paper to respond to the questions on the same slide:

  • What does Juliet mean?

  • How does the quote make you feel?

  • What emotions does it evoke, or what emotions would it evoke if you were in Romeo's shoes?

Once students are finished, invite them to share their responses with an Elbow Partner. Students should be ready to share with the whole class as well.

Once students have had time to discuss with their partners, ask students to share with the class what they discussed.



30 Minute(s)

Display slide 7. Sort students into groups of 2-4. Pass out one of the prepared Card Sort sets to each student. Introduce students to the Card Sort strategy. Tell them that on their cards are many words they would find in the play Romeo and Juliet. Ask students to work individually, not as a group, to sort these words into three categories of their choice based on the emotion or association the word evokes. Do not give students predetermined categories into which they should sort. Students may use a dictionary if they do not know the definition of a word.

After students have had time to do so, invite groups to discuss their sorting methods collectively until they reach a consensus of how the words should be sorted.

Once students have discussed, ask each group to choose a spokesperson to share with the class how the group decided on their categories and which words they chose to include. Allow students to discuss and defend their decisions as a whole class.



40 Minute(s)

Display slide 8. Pass out a copy of the attached H-Chart to each student. Introduce students to the Paired Texts H Chart strategy to take notes over each video, compare the information therein, and summarize their new learning.

Before beginning the videos, ask students to complete the H-Chart template with information from the two videos. Information from the first video should be written on the left side of the chart. Information from the second video should be written on the right side of the chart. The middle of the chart is where students should write a summary of both videos. They should include all they learned about denotation and connotation. Allow students to work in pairs or small groups to complete the H Chart.

Once students are ready to begin, move to slide 9, and show students the video on the slide (and below), "Denote or Connote?"

Next, move to slide 10, and show the students the next video, "Connotation."



45 Minute(s)

After completing the H-Chart, invite students to use the information they gathered to create an Anchor Chart. Introduce students to the Anchor Chart learning strategy, if needed.

Display slide 11. Place students in small groups of 2-4. Give each group a piece of chart paper (or similar) and markers. Each group should create an Anchor Chart using pictures, shapes, words, etc. This chart should show what each group has learned about connotation and denotation. It should also include the elements on slide 11:

  • A definition of denotation and connotation in students' own words.

  • Examples of denotation and connotation (optionally using words from the Card Sort).

  • An illustration to accompany the example.

  • Why it is important to know the connotation of words.

Give students time to complete their Anchor Charts with their groups. Once students are finished, post each Anchor Chart in a different space around the room.

Display slide 12. Invite students, using the Gallery Walk strategy, to walk around the room and analyze and comment on other groups' charts. Give students sticky notes to leave comments on others' charts.



30 Minute(s)

Display slide 13. Ask students to, using what they've learned about denotation and connotation, write down their thoughts on each. Students should address the following questions in their responses:

  • Why is it important to understand the connotation as well as the denotation of a word before you use it?

  • How does the connotation of some words affect attitudes and relationships?

  • How does understanding the connotation of words help you be a better reader and writer?

Share your prepared Flipgrid with students. Invite them to post their responses in a video. Once students have done so, ask them to respond to one or two of their classmates' reflections. Optionally, you can have students use the attached Talk Moves chart to help craft their comments.