Thesaurus Activities for Kids

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Students need to have thesaurus skills, so why not teach them with fun games and activities? This lesson describes activities students can do independently, in small and whole groups to reinforce thesaurus skills.

Expanding Students' Vocabulary

Some of us are naturally word lovers. We can easily think of a word when we need to and have a pretty fluid vocabulary. Many of us, though, need a boost every now and then to think of more creative ways to express ourselves in writing and speech. Luckily, there's a tool for that!

The thesaurus is an easy and reliable way to expand our vocabulary and help find creative and engaging ways to speak and write. Teaching students how to use a thesaurus can be fun with the use of activities on general and specific skills. Take a look.

I Spy Identify

Setting

Teach as a whole group; then allow students to play in pairs or small groups

Materials

  • Thesaurus
  • Paper
  • Pencils

Instructions for Whole-Class Activity

  1. Model this activity for the whole class; then allow students to play with a partner or small group afterwards.
  2. Have half the students in the class leave the room or hide their eyes and ears while the other half works with you.
  3. Like the game 'I Spy,' find a secret object in the room, such as the pencil sharpener.
  4. With students, brainstorm a list of words to describe the object, such as 'brown' and 'loud.'
  5. Now use the thesaurus to find alternate words for these descriptors and record.
  6. Invite the other students in the class and begin describing the object with the thesaurus words, one at a time, until the students are able to guess the object.
  7. Practice again by switching groups, then divide students into partner pairs or small groups to play.

Extensions

  • Make a word list for each object and hang around the classroom nearby.
  • Challenge students to find two or three-syllable words and/or descriptors for each sense.

Guess Who?

Setting

Whole group

Materials

Thesaurus

Instructions

  1. Have each student think of five words that describe them, such as 'shy,' 'silly,' 'smart,' 'fun' and 'athletic.'
  2. Once the original list is written, have students use their thesaurus to find alternative words and record.
  3. Collect lists and read aloud, allowing classmates to guess who each student is.

Extensions

  • Have students trace and cut their bodies on butcher-block paper and decorate.
  • Record descriptive words on the life-sized paper students and hang in the hallway outside your classroom.

Opposites Attract

Setting

Whole group or small group

Materials

  • Index cards
  • Thesaurus
  • Markers

Instructions

  1. Give each student a thesaurus and instruct them to find a word with an antonym and record on paper. Model where to find this in your thesaurus.
  2. Check words and then have students record each word and its antonym on a separate index card.
  3. Collect the cards and mix them.
  4. Now place an index card face down on each student's desk.
  5. On your go, have students look at their card; then go find their antonym partner.

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