The White Fox / During Reading / /

Investigating Vocabulary: Wild

Exploring positive and negative connotations of the word wild.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from The White Fox series

Required reading: Whole book

Text potential

  • Vocabulary: Connotations

Strategies used

  • Using Dictionaries


Over 70% of English words have multiple meanings. Many of these words have an ordinary everyday usage which can confuse children when they meet the word in an unfamiliar context. Developing depth of vocabulary knowledge is as essential as developing breadth. If children understand that words can have multiple meanings, they can be encouraged to think about this when they see a familiar word that does not appear to make sense in context; they are thus supported in their meta-cognitive thinking. 

The word ‘wild’ can have both positive and negative connotations, and in this lesson, the children explore the various meanings in the context of the story. 


  • Copies of Wild Sentences, at least one per pair.
  • A collection of dictionaries.
  • Copies of The White Fox, at least one between two.


Begin by writing the word ‘wild’ on the board. Allow two minutes for the children to write down all the words they associate with the word ‘wild’. (make connections)

After two minutes, gather the class and invite the children to suggest words to add to a collective list. Where a child makes a suggestion, and the links are not obvious, ask them to explain. If the explanation is convincing, add the word to the list. 

Review the list of words and invite suggestions for grouping. Some possible groups could include: behaviour, animals, nature, weather.

Model creating a semantic map.

Write the following sentences on the board:

The children were going wild at wet play. 

Wildflowers grow in my garden. 

Ask pairs to discuss:

  • Is the word wild in these sentences used positively or negatively

Share responses and refer back to the semantic map, asking:

  • Which of these associations has a positive connotation
  • Which of these associations has a negative connotation?

Distribute copies of the Wild Sentences, one set between two.


Explain: You need to read each sentence and decide whether the word wild has a positive or negative connotation in this context. Once finished, you should share your thoughts with others and see if they agree.


A final challenge: How many sentences can you write which use the different meanings of ‘wild’?

Final reflection

Use dictionaries to look up wild. Ask:

  • Are there any meanings that you were unfamiliar with?
  • Are you surprised by the number of ways wild can be used? 
  • How does the word ‘wild’ relate to the story of The White Fox?
  • Discuss with your partner. Is there more than one way in which the word’ wild’ relates to the story?

Key vocabulary

wild, positive, negative

Additional vocabulary

connotation, association


Wild Sentences

Wild Sentences


Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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