Lessons on Synonyms & Antonyms for Middle School Students

Independent student activities can guide discovery of new words.
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Developing a student's vocabulary can be assisted by an introduction to synonyms and antonyms. Students can strengthen their reading comprehension skills and the size of their vocabulary through the use of both synonyms and antonyms. Activities to teach synonyms and antonyms at the middle school level focus on words students already know.

1 Rewrite Reading Assignments

Using synonyms and antonyms in context can increase student understanding and provide opportunity for practice in replacing common words, such as "nice" and "good." Teachers can take short stories that students enjoy and are familiar with and choose words that are commonly overused to highlight. Students replace the words with more creative synonyms to add variety to their vocabularies. Students may use a thesaurus or be required to think of words on their own. An alternative option for this lesson asks students to provide an antonym for the teacher's selected words.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Create a Banned Words List

Since middle school students begin to write more independent assignments, teachers are able to notice adjectives that are commonly repeated. A whole class activity to help develop understanding of synonyms involves creating a list of banned words and suitable replacements. Students can compile lists of words to use instead of overused, simple words. The list can be written on a poster and displayed for reference. The activity allows students to practice finding synonyms and encourages vocabulary development.

3 Good and Nice Word Webs

Read Write Think suggests additional activities in expanding student use of the words "good" and "nice." Students can use graphic organizers in the form of a web to develop alternatives to the overused "good" and "nice." The web differs from creating a master list of banned words in that it provides options for various circumstances. For example, one branch of the web might include alternatives for "nice" in reference to a person while another branch of the web lists alternatives for references to the weather. A similar antonym activity can be created to give students an idea of words to express the opposite of a "nice" person.

4 Poems and Puzzles

Developing original poetry offers the opportunity to work on synonyms and antonyms. In an acrostic or diamante poem, students may be asked to provide synonyms for description of a single object. Or students may be asked to provide a comparison in description using antonyms. Similarly, students may write an acrostic poem finding synonyms for describing an overall topic for each letter in the poem. Teachers can also create word search puzzles that list clues to the words in the puzzle in the form of synonyms or antonyms.

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.