Lesson plan

Deeper Meanings

Do your students understand the deeper meaning or humor behind a play on words? In this lesson, students will learn how to interpret the meaning of oxymorons and puns, identify key words, and explain the meanings!
Grade Subject View aligned standards
  • Students will be able to identify nuances in word and phrase meanings when reading puns and oxymorons.
  • Students will be able to explain the meanings of puns and oxymorons.
(5 minutes)
  • Post sticky notes on whiteboard in a random order.
  • Invite the students to look at the words and decide which words are similar. Have students come up to the board and take off sticky notes that match, placing them on a separate area of the board.
  • Ask the students to share examples of how each word can be used.
  • Tell the students that just like these words, sometimes words or phrases have a deeper meaning. Tell the students that today we’re going to analyze oxymorons and puns and find the deeper meaning.
(10 minutes)
  • Write the following phrase on the board: "inside out".
  • Draw a quick illustration above each word, representing the concepts of “inside” and “out.”
  • Think aloud, telling the students that when these two words are written together they have a deeper meaning than their individual meanings. The words appear to contradict each other, but they really have a separate meaning. For example, in this case, we might use the phrase "inside out" to talk about how we have turned a T-shirt inside out before we wash it. Explain that two or more words that have a specific meaning but appear to contradict each other are called an oxymoron.
  • Tell the students that we can also find deeper meanings in puns. Puns are jokes that often have words that sound alike.
  • Write the following example on the board: The baker didn’t knead butter to make the bread.
  • Draw the students attention to the word knead, and show the students how the word is related to making bread but is substituted for the homophone, need. This is an example of a play on the two words: need and knead.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute a Word Play guided practice lesson plan attachment to each pair of students along with a page protector and dry erase or wet erase marker.
  • Ask the students to work with their partner and find the words that have a deeper meaning, circling the words with their marker and writing an explanation of their thinking below each sentence.
  • Lead the students in a class discussion of what they found.
(15 minutes)
  • Ask the students to complete the worksheet Play on Words.


  • For students who need a challenge, give the students several pairs of homophones and challenge them to make up their own puns.
  • Invite students to create visuals that match oxymorons or puns that show the literal meaning versus the figurative meaning.


  • Ask the students to complete the worksheet, Match the Meaning, to give them more practice with matching meaning with specific words and phrases.
  • Challenge students to create a wordle or other visual representation of a variety of oxymorons or puns.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask the students to complete a one minute essay with the following phrase and pair of words: awfully good, one/won.
  • Check to see that students understand the deeper meanings of each group of words, including any contradictions between the literal meanings.
(5 minutes)
  • Invite students into a circle and ask them to reflect what they learned about the nuances of words, including the use of the literal meaning of words to determine the broader context.

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