Monday, October 14, 2013

Synonym Game

I suppose it's time for a synonym lesson plan. Synonyms are totally in right now.

Here's a quick lesson plan and synonym game I use to introduce the concept with a little fun. This synonym lesson plan and game would be suitable for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. You could use it to introduce the concept to older grades, but you would likely need higher-level words for the game.

Anticipatory Set:

Tell them this story, "I went outside and the trees were pretty. The grass was pretty. The sky was pretty. The lake was pretty. Everything was pretty. The end."

Ask if they liked the story and if not, ask them why. Explain that if you use a word over and over it can get kind of boring and doesn't make for a very good story. Change the story to this, "I went outside and the trees were pretty. The grass was beautiful. The sky was stunning. The lake was lovely. Everything was gorgeous."

While this isn't exactly the best story, it still shows what synonyms are and why they are useful. 

Some problems you might run into: 
  • You'll need to establish that synonyms are not and never will be cinnamon. Good luck. Once you get them actually saying synonym, half your battle is over.


Explain that synonyms are words that mean about the same thing. We use them because it makes our stories and our conversations more interesting. Cut out these cards (or write them on index cards) and present the cards one at a time. Model naming a synonym of the presented word, then have the students guess for the remaining words.

Visit here for the download of the synonym and antonym matching game:

Some problems you might run into: 

  • A student might answer "hopping" for "hop" or they may just say a word they associate with hop, like, "bunny." A sentence prompt would help here. Give an example sentence saying, "I could say, 'he can hop so high.' or I could say, 'He can ____ so high. What would fit in the blank?" Try putting their guess in the blank and they will see why it doesn't work.

  • Other  students might say, "pop" for the word, "hop".  Explain that you're not working on rhyming words, you're working on words that mean the same thing. I've seen this several times. They mix up "sounds the same" with "mean the same." 

Reinforcement Activity:

Time for some fun! Now use the cards to play a memory game with the students. I split the sets into 12 cards (make sure each set has 6 pairs), because 24 seems to be too much for my students. I also make several sets and put the children into groups of 3-4 to play the game. 

Demonstrate how to play the game by flipping over a card and looking for a match. Remind them you aren't looking for exact matches, you are looking for synonyms.

Some problems you might run into:

  • The first time I tried a game like this with my first graders it ended with several kids crying, lots of angry outbursts, and one kids proclaiming that it isn't fair if everyone doesn't win! We have to keep going until everyone wins! Oh, but how didn't I see this coming? First graders are not accustomed to losing and they are definitely aren't good at controlling emotions. But that doesn't mean you have to skip the game all together. It's a good idea to go for cooperative games often, but it's also good for them to learn how to lose once in a while. This is what I did before playing the synonym game this year, and we didn't have any problems:
  1. Explain that someone is going to lose. Most people will lose, in fact. Start by saying, "We are going to play a game. Do you think everyone will win the game? No. One person will win, and the others will lose. We're going to work on being good sports whether we win or lose."
  2. Brainstorm how to be a good sport if you lose and if you win. Suggest saying, "Good game." and not flaunting if you win.
  3. Acknowledge that the kids might feel angry if they lose, but help them understand that they don't have to act on those feelings. I talk about this a lot with my students and it generally goes well. They might not be able to control how they feel, but they can control how they act.
  4. Let them know that this is a trial run, and if they show they can be good sports you'll let them play games in the future. If they are poor sports, tell them you'll stop the game immediately and won't introduce games again until you feel they are more ready.


  1. Thank you for these great ideas. Now I can fit in with the cool crowd that's talking about synonyms all the time.

  2. These type of games are good for learning, synonyms games can accelerate your grammar understandings and allow you to focus more.