Thesaurus Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Use this lesson plan to help you teach your students about the thesaurus. Students will watch a video lesson that explains what a thesaurus is and how it works, then apply learning to an activity and game. Test understanding with a formative quiz.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the use of a thesaurus
  • demonstrate how to use a thesaurus
  • describe the types of thesauri


1 hour


  • Several types of thesaurus
  • Index cards with related synonyms and antonyms, such as 'big, large, small' (one set for each partner pair)
  • Access to technology and the internet

Key Vocabulary

  • Thesaurus
  • Antonym
  • Synonym
  • Dictionary style
  • Concept style

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8.4

Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8.4.c

Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.


  • Divide students into partner pairs and give each a set of prepared index cards.
  • Instruct students to sort the cards. Allow them to sort without direction and discuss their answers and rational.
  • Next, guide students to sorting into synonym/antonym groups.
  • Ask:
    • How do you think of a synonym or antonym when speaking or writing?
    • Where do you learn new words?


  • Tell students they'll be learning to use the thesaurus and label the board 'Using a Thesaurus.'
  • Start the lesson video What is a Thesaurus? - Definition, Use & History and pause at 2:42.
  • Write key concepts on the board, such as definitions of key terms and usage of the thesaurus, then distribute thesauri to students.
  • Have them identify their books as either a dictionary style or concept style, providing reasons for their answer.
  • Now show them the thesaurus online and in a Word document. Discuss:
    • Which if these tools is easiest for you?
    • Which of these do you think you will use?
  • Play the remainder of the lesson.
  • Now give students practice with their thesaurus by giving them words and having them find synonyms and antonyms. Work with both book and online versions.
  • Have students take the quiz as a formative assessment. Re-teach if necessary.

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