At a Glance


  • Languages

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • 603-101-MA Introduction to College English

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Gaming & role-playing

Technical Details

Useful Technologies

  • Google Slides
  • Smartboard

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)


This activity introduces basic concepts of literary analysis and interpretation including the difference between denotation and connotation. It also helps students become comfortable speaking to each other and to the larger class in a low-stakes, fun way. In class, various words are called out, such as love, government and essay. Students position themselves around the classroom along a continuum of positive to negative. Next, students work in pairs and interview their partner. Questions asked include, “If you could be an animal, what animal would you be?” The interviewer then deduces the meaning of their partner’s answer and each pair presents their partner to the class.

This activity is based on strategy of Peer Instruction and Think-Pair-Share and occurs during one class session.

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the concepts of denotation and connotation
  • Describe a classmate in terms of the connotative meaning of various words they choose

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

  • Applies content knowledge to self in a direct way
  • Engages students from the start (class 1) around key concepts in a fun way
  • Breaks the ice
  • Shows how many different ways we might interpret the same response
  • Fear of public speaking (if done in a very low-stakes way, students are usually relaxed)
  • Speech issues (I often include an announcement before we begin where I invite students to speak to me one-on-one if speaking in front of the class is a concern for them)
  • Pronouns:  use they as he/she does not acknowledge nonbinary students; if they is the default, students can be asked which pronoun they prefer; plan for this so that no one is misgendered (this happened once)
  • Divide the room with one side negative, the other positive and the middle neutral; when showing different items during slide presentation (i.e. love, government, essay, Shakespeare, etc) and ask students to position themselves along the continuum 
    • This is a fun way to get them to think about how complex and subjective interpretation is and how this is based on connotative associations
    • Movement is always a good idea!
  • If time allows during presentation, each person can comment on whether their partner’s interpretation was “accurate” or not which can be fun and illuminating
  • If time allows, alternate interpretations of student responses can be offered by the larger class

Applied Strategies


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