The Synonym Continuum – A Vocabulary Building Activity

Looking for an activity to fill those last few hours of classroom time?  Perhaps you’re looking for something for the beginning of the year.  I like to use this as a vocabulary building strategy.  It’s an activity that I refer to as The Synonym Continuum.  It’s a list of synonyms for “big” and “small.”  Students are asked to sequence them in order from the “smallest of the small” to the “biggest of the big.”  It is intended to be an activity where they are actively looking up and confirming definitions for the words in order to compare their size, rather than just guessing at the order.

One of my biggest frustrations with students using a thesaurus is that they tend to substitute a word they find without necessarily being aware of the connotation of the word they select.  When I teach students to use a thesaurus, I typically teach them to use it simultaneously with a dictionary, so that they can be sure that they understand the word they are substituting and that it properly fits the context into which they are inserting it.

The answer key that is provided in intended to be a reasonable but not definitive answer key.  Definitions are included, but many of the words will have a range within which they fit, based on how their definitions are interpreted.  Some definitions help to clearly position some as smaller or larger than others, while some remain a bit vague.  Hopefully, your students will find this a relevant and meaningful activity and it will help them add some variety and sophistication to their descriptive writing.

The Synonym Continuum

The Synonym Continuum Answer Key

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