Thesaurus Activities & Games

Instructor: Tara Schofield

Tara has a PhD in Marketing & Management

Learning to use a thesaurus gives students a chance to expand their vocabulary and enhance their communication skills. Use the activities and games in this lesson to give your students experience in using a thesaurus and identifying synonyms and antonyms.

Games and Activities

Helping your students learn how to effectively use a thesaurus and understand synonyms and antonyms will help your students have greater variety in their word choices while also keeping their writing interesting. This lesson helps you teach the value of expanding and varying language. There are five exercises that give students a chance to understand how to use a thesaurus and practice exchanging words and phrases. Depending on the size of your class, you may want to break up the class into groups to do some of the exercises. Some of the activities, such as crosswords, are appropriate for students to do individually or in small groups.

Find and Replace

Select a book or section from a book and prepare a hand-out for the students. On the hand-out, type the text of the story, selecting words or phrases that can be replaced by synonyms. When typing the story, put the words in parenthesis to identify which words your students will replace. Leave a line or space for students to write. Encourage the students to use their thesaurus to find a replacement for those words that were originally eliminated. Students will have a chance to try different options and determine if the words are appropriate or can be replaced for something more appropriate. Depending on the size of your class, invite each student or select a few individuals to share their completed stories.

Change the Story

Have your students take turns with the thesaurus. Start reading a simple story and find a word on each page to replace. When you reach the word, ask the assigned student to look up the word and find synonyms. Re-read the sentence with several different words and discuss how the replacements affect the message. Then discuss antonyms and analyze how the opposite words change the story. When the students have completed the review of that word, pass the thesaurus to the next student and repeat the exercise. If you have a large class, you can pair students and have one person find synonyms and the other find antonyms.

Crossword Puzzle

Create a crossword puzzle that uses synonyms for the horizontal words and antonyms for the vertical words. The description should be one-word that the student can find in the thesaurus. The word that belongs in the crossword puzzle should be found in the thesaurus. This gives students the chance to review many words, find the right words that fit in the puzzle, and make the correlation to the original word.

Describe an Object

A student is invited to find an object in the room. For example, a student selects an apple as the object. The first student selects an adjective that describes the apple. The next student must find a new word that describes the apple. They can use their thesaurus to find a new word to describe the apple. When a student cannot come up with an appropriate word that has not already been used, they are 'out'. The game continues until there is only one person left.

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