August 6, 2017
by Anna Whaley

Lesson plan

Abbreviations & Acronyms: What’s the Difference?

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  • Students will distinguish and recognize characteristics of abbreviations and acronyms.
  • Students will use and produce abbreviations and acronyms.
(5 minutes)
  • Invite students to reflect on a time that they have sent a text message or have seen someone else send a text message. How is the language different from an essay that they would write in school? If it doesn’t arise in the discussion, ask whether they have noticed any abbreviations.
  • Tell the students that they will be learning how to recognize and use abbreviations and acronyms. Abbreviations and acronyms are similar, yet different from language that is used in a text message.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell the students that just as people use shorter language for text messages (such as LOL, IDK), sometimes abbreviations are used to shorten words. Abbreviations are shortened forms of words.
  • On a piece of chart paper, create two columns. Label the top of the first column, “Word.” Label the top of the second column “Abbreviation.”
  • Divide students into small groups and challenge them to brainstorm as many abbreviations as they can think of.
  • List several common abbreviations such as the days of the week (e.g., Mon., Tues., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat., and Sun.), months of the year, titles (e.g., Dr. and Prof.), locations (such as Dr. and St.), and measurements (e.g., cup/c, pint/pt., and quart/qt.).
  • Tell the students that sometimes we can write a special kind of an abbreviation that is read as a word. This is called an acronym. Acronyms are often used to shorten a phrase or group of words, and the letters are pronounced as one single word.
  • On a separate piece of chart paper, create two columns and label the columns “Phrase” and “Acronym.”
  • As completed with the abbreviations, demonstrate the process of using a group of words to create acronyms.
  • Challenge small groups of students to brainstorm lists of acronyms that they know.
  • Write the following pairs of words and acronyms on the chart: Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich (BLT), Do It Yourself (DIY), For Your Information (FYI), To Be Announced (TBA), United States of America (USA), Very Important Person (VIP), As Soon as Possible (ASAP), Peanut Butter and Jelly (PB&J).
(10 minutes)
  • Guide the students through a partner match of words and phrases that match specific abbreviations and acronyms.
  • Distribute one index card to each student and invite students to mingle around the classroom to find their partner who has a matching abbreviation or acronym.
  • Distribute individual whiteboards and whiteboard markers.
  • Referring back to the chart, ask the students to write the abbreviation or acronym on their whiteboards that matches a particular situation. For example, you might ask students to write the abbreviation or acronym that someone might want to use if they are referring to a project that someone does on their own (DIY).
(15 minutes)


  • Distribute the Geography: Know the States worksheet and the Abbreviating States worksheet. Challenge the students to use the internet and other resources to discover abbreviations for the states and any other common acronyms that are used in certain states.


  • Invite students to use the internet and conduct research on specific categories of acronyms.
  • Refer students to the padlet website to collect and organize examples of abbreviations and acronyms.
(5 minutes)
  • Using their student journals, invite students to write and use one or more of the abbreviations and acronyms in context.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask the students to study and share how abbreviations and acronyms are similar and different.
  • Ask the students how they can recognize abbreviations and acronyms. Invite the students to share in a class discussion.

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