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Synonym Activities & Games

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

The English language has more words than almost any other and many of them mean the same thing. Help students get to grips with the confusing world of synonyms with these games and activities.

Learning Synonyms

Kids need to learn about synonyms for multiple reasons. It helps with reading skills as textbooks, novels, or articles, which will often use multiple words for the same thing. It also gives students more options in their own writing. Lastly, it begins the path towards students realizing that different words can have the same meaning, but with subtly different connotations. Learning synonyms can be repetitive and dull because they can be learned through nothing more than repetition and rote memorization. However, we can make the process more enjoyable and engaging for students with some simple activities and games.

Synonym Cycle

This game requires nothing but index cards and a thesaurus. To set up this game, use a thesaurus to come up with a series of age-appropriate synonym pairs, at least one per student. Note that for this activity, you will only need half as many index cards as you have words. Write one half of each pair of synonyms on one side of an index card and write the other half on a different index card (a single card should never contain two words that are synonyms of each other). For example, the two sides of card one might contain happy and scared, the two sides of card two might contain frightened and fast, the two sides of card three might contain quick and sleepy, the two sides of card four might contain drowsy and gigantic, and so on.

Once everything is set up, shuffle up the index cards well, and hand them out to your class. Have a student volunteer to go first. They should read out the word on one side of their card. After hearing it, every student checks their card to look for a synonym of that word. If they find one, they call it out. After calling it out, they turn over their card and read the word on the opposite side. The students check each side of their card for a synonym for that word, and so on. The game continues in this way until every word has been read aloud.

You can challenge your students to complete the cards as fast as possible, beating their previous best time. The same cards can easily be used multiple times, because you can reshuffle them so that each student has a different card each time.

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