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What's Another Word For...? What’s the Opposite Of...?

By J. M. Wolf

Try these bright [syn. brilliant, glowing] ideas for teaching synonyms, then turn students’ thinking upside-down with antonym activities.

Grades

1–2, 3–5

Super Synonym Stories

Challenge students to work in pairs to rewrite favorite children's stories or fairy tales using synonyms for as many words as they can. Students can put the thesaurus to use. For instance, the big, bad wolf can become the enormous, naughty wolf. When the children are finished, everyone will enjoy hearing the stories read aloud. How are they different from the originals? Explain that pairs of synonyms often have meanings that are similar, not exactly the same.

Our Class Is Kind Synonym Posters

With this activity, students explore synonyms while creating posters that celebrate classroom community. As a class, brainstorm words that describe attributes that students want to see throughout the year in the classroom, e.g., kind, hard-working, peaceful. Together, narrow the list to the five or six most important. Write each word at the top of a sheet of posterboard. Challenge students to work in teams searching for synonyms for the words in magazines and newspapers. They can then paste each word they find on the corresponding poster. Hang the posters for all to see.

Synonym Word Search

Challenge your class to design their own word search puzzles. Ask students to choose 10 words each and create a puzzle using graph paper or the puzzlemaker on the Discovery Education website (http://puzzlemaker.school.discovery.com). Tie the assignment to literature by having students choose words from a book they are reading. They then find synonyms for each word in their puzzles to supply as clues. When the puzzles are finished, have the children exchange and solve them. Gather them into a puzzle book to share with other classes at your grade level.

Synonym Games

Roundabout: Get students up out of their seats with this game! Ask them to clear their desks and take out a pencil. Then give each student a sheet of paper with a vocabulary word on it. Once everyone is ready, appoint a timekeeper and explain how to play. Students will have 15 seconds to add a synonym to the card in front of them, then they must move to the next desk. At each desk, they must try to think of a synonym that hasn't yet been used. All the fast-paced thinking is sure to result in fun!
Synonym Partners: Record pairs of synonyms on index cards, one word per card. To play: Give each student a card and challenge them to find the classmate who has the matching synonym card. When everyone has found their partner, have each pair read their synonyms to the class.
Synonym Password: Students play this fun game in pairs. Each pair chooses a word card. The pair then gives the class up to three synonym “passwords” one at a time, and challenges the class to guess their word from these clues. Appoint a “reporter” to record all the synonyms the class discovers along the way.

Who Am I Not? Antonym Riddles

Here's a great “getting-to-know-you” activity that challenges students to use antonyms. Begin by asking each student to write his or her name and five simple, self-descriptive statements (clues) on a notecard. For example, a student might write: I am a girl. I like to play basketball. Then, ask students to write opposite statements using antonyms on the other side of their cards. The same student might write: I am a boy. I don't know how to play basketball. When the riddles are complete, collect them. Each day over the span of a week, read a few antonym riddles out loud and invite the class to guess who wrote each one. By the end of the week, everyone will know more about antonyms and each other! For younger students: As you read each clue, write them on the board so that children can follow along and read each aloud.

What's in the Bag?

Keep students guessing with this antonym game. Give each student a paper bag with a “mystery” item inside (a small, everyday item, such as a pencil, stone, sticker, or toy car). Challenge students to write antonym clues for their mystery items. Then let each child read the description of his or her item and give the class a chance to guess what it is. For example, if a student has a new, sharp pencil in her paper bag, she might say: “My object is short and thick. It is old. The tip of it is dull.” Your students will love this antonym challenge.

What I (Didn't) Do This Summer

Students explore the concept of antonyms with this twist on the classic “What I Did This Summer” essay. Begin by having students write a paragraph about their summer activities. Then ask them to write a second version in which they substitute opposite words (antonyms) wherever they can. For example, “It was rainy every day at the beach” could become “It was sunny every day at the beach.” This will not only help them to understand opposites, but stretch their creative thinking skills as well. When students finish, post all the versions randomly on a bulletin board and see if students can match them up.

My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
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