poem by Robert Schechter , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning intentions:

I am learning to interpret the purpose of vocabulary used in a text so that I can enhance my reading using oral presentation strategies.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify variations in meaning for synonyms of a word.
  • I can plan and rehearse an oral reading of a text.
  • I can modulate my voice to demonstrate my understanding of the vocabulary and enhance my reading of the text.


Listen to the audio recording or have the class read the poem chorally (be aware that students may stumble over some vocabulary at this point). Ask the class to count how many different words for laugh they can find in the text (answer: ten including the word laugh, as well as the words whoop, shriek and roar used in context).


Group students into pairs or threes. Assign each group a word from the text that is a synonym for laugh, including the word laugh. Each group needs to discuss or research their word, then demonstrate to the class how their word would be portrayed. For example, the group presenting the word titters should give quiet giggles, perhaps behind their hands. Remind students presenting the words roar and shriek that they should not roar like a lion or shriek like a scream, but rather demonstrate how they would roar or shriek with laughter.


After groups have demonstrated their type of laughter, discuss as a class how, while each word has the same basic definition, they have variations in meaning.


Read the poem again, with the teacher reading the words and each group demonstrating the type of laughter when their word is read out.


Now students understand the distinction between each synonym, explain that they will present the poem to the class, demonstrating their understanding of the vocabulary. Explain that they are free to interpret this as they choose, for example, pausing the reading to laugh/titter/chortle etc, or to laugh/titter/chortle etc while saying the word itself. Remind them that they should consider their audience, and that varying volume and pacing will enhance the presentation.


Give students time to plan their reading and an opportunity to rehearse in front of a partner.


Students present their readings to the class.