Owl in the Morning

poem by Beverly McLoughland , illustrated by Jasmine Seymour

Learning intention:

I am learning to examine effective use of vocabulary so that I can describe how word connotations improve content.


Success criteria:

  • I can define the term connotation.
  • I can compare the connotations of synonyms.
  • I can evaluate the choice of vocabulary in a text.


Essential knowledge:               


Before reading Owl in the Morning, write the words COSY and CRAMPED on the board. Explain to students that a real estate agent has been hired to sell a treehouse. Ask students to vote on which word the real estate agent would choose in an advertisement. Ask students why they voted on their choice. Explain that while both words mean small, they each have different connotations. View the English Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbolism up to 1min50sec for its information about connotation. Discuss with students the difference in feeling between cosy and cramped. Students might connect the word cosy with smallness, but also fireplaces, cups of tea and knitted blankets. Alternatively, they may connect the word cramped with hard floors and walls, squashed limbs and uncomfortableness.


Tell students that during the reading, they should watch for interesting vocabulary, and that they’ll be discussing why the poet may have chosen these words. Read aloud Owl in the Morning or listen to the audio recording. Give students time to parse the text to find interesting vocabulary. Sample answers include pillows, green, moon-feathered, snuggles, cosy, deep, wide-awake, lulls, softly.


Sort students into groups of four or five to discuss their vocabulary and why the poet might’ve chosen these words over other synonyms. Ensure they explain the connotation behind the vocabulary.


Once all students have had time to discuss their choices, return to the class discussion and go through answers.


Write the word GREEN on the board and ask students why the poet chose to describe the shade in this way, as shade is not literally green. Encourage students to think about how it gives a visual of nature without explicitly describing it. Ask if they think this type of description is effective. Do the same for the word MOON-FEATHERED (it suggests a cloudless and bright night because of the word moon, while the word feather suggests it is soft and silent).


Write the word WIDE-AWAKE on a strip of paper and have students reread the final stanza of the poem. Ask students why wide-awake is considered an adjective (answer: it is describing the world). Brainstorm what connotations the word wide-awake brings to mind. Students might note that it suggests daylight or busy-ness. Have students suggest synonyms for this adjective, explaining that the words they chose should replace the word wide-awake without changing the poem’s meaning. Sample answers include bustling, busy, living, lively, daytime, sleepless, awake. Write students’ suggestions on a strip of paper each.


As a class, complete a word cline together, sorting the words on the strips of paper from the strongest of their meaning to the least strongest. Answers will vary. No matter where the word wide-awake ends up on the word cline, ask students to consider why the poet chose this particular word for the poem. Note: Some students may also recognise the juxtaposition of the conjoined word wide-awake to the conjoined word to moon-feathered.


Students do a second word cline with a partner using a different word from the text. When asked, they should be able to explain why they think the poet chose this word for the poem over its synonyms, considering its connotations, and evaluate its effectiveness.