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Fascinating creatures,
changing their color based on surroundings.

Words are sorta, kinda, a little bit like that, changing their spelling or pronunciation just a bit based on their sentence surroundings.

Here is an example.

  • She didn’t have much hope last night.
  • She was overwhelmed by a hopeless feeling.
  • She wrung her hands hopelessly.

The noun hope changes to hopeless, becoming an adjective that describes a feeling. Then hopeless takes the suffix -ly to become an adverb that describes the manner in which she wrung her hands.

Introducing chameleon words
First we talk a bit about chameleons.
Then I tell students that sometimes words make me think of chameleons.
How? Well, words often change spelling and become a different part of speech based on their sentence surroundings.

Lesson activity
1.  I post three sentences using  tall, taller, tallest. Students read the sentences aloud.
2.  Students identify the chameleon word and its variations in the three sentences. I circle or underline these words.
3.  We work with other chameleon words (honesty, dishonesty; distance, distant), always viewing them in sentences.
4.  We classify each word as a part of speech and discussed changes in spelling, meaning, and use.
5.  We list affixes (suffixes / prefixes).


Chameleon words   globe, global, globalized, globalization


Chameleon words:   truth, truthful, truthfully, truthfulness