Third-grade language arts standards require students to understand meanings of words and relationships between words that have similar meanings and words with opposite meanings. Synonym and antonym activities aid in mastery of this expectation by increasing the vocabularies of students. As they learn to distinguish between synonyms and antonyms, third-graders can better tackle the words in reading and use them in writing assignments.
Simple games give third-graders practice at recognizing synonyms and antonyms. Use notecards to create a matching game. Write pairs of antonyms or synonyms on cards. You might have one card that reads "light" and one that reads "dark" for an antonym pair. Have students match up the word pairs. Get students out of their seats with a group game. Have all students stand in a circle with a soccer ball. Choose a word to start with. Toss the ball to another person. That person says either a synonym or antonym and passes the ball to someone else. Continue until you can't think of more. Switch to a new word and play another round.
Give third-graders practical experience at using synonyms and antonyms with a writing assignment. Start with a short passage; one paragraph is enough when introducing synonyms and antonyms. Have students choose at least 10 words from the passage to change using synonyms. They might change, "The little car drove quickly down the street," to "The tiny automobile sped down the road." Have the students rewrite the paragraph a second time using antonyms. They might say, "The large car drove down the street." Have them read the different versions to see how the meaning changes.
Antonym and synonym activities focus on the meaning of the words. Use creativity to emphasize the meanings. For synonyms, start with one word in the middle of the paper. Choose a word with several synonyms, such as "big." Students make a list of as many synonyms as possible. Use letters cut from magazines, letter stamps, letter stickers or other artistic materials to add the words to the paper with the original word in the center. Have students draw pictures that illustrate the meanings of the words. For antonyms, give the students a list of words. Have them create an antonym for each word. The students write the pairs of words and draw pictures of the two meanings to show they are opposites.
Synonym and Antonym Search
Integrate the synonym and antonym concept into reading passages in the classroom. Make a chart with words for which you frequently see antonyms or synonyms in third-grade reading passages. This might include "heavy," "dark," "large" or "happy." As you read stories aloud or conduct reading groups, have the kids look for synonyms and antonyms for those words. Add them to the class chart over several days or weeks. You can change the words each week to get variety and have repeated practice. Review the lists occasionally to reinforce the idea of antonyms and synonyms.
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