Building Vocabulary with Synonyms

Teaching grammar in first grade has to be one of my favorite things. Some topics like prefixes and compound sentences can be a little tricky at first, but I just LOVE to see that "lightbulb moment" when my students truly get it. I have found that building vocabulary with synonyms can follow that same path. While it's a bit confusing for my firsties initially, once they get it, they are so excited to start using synonyms in their writing. Today, I am discussing my methods for building vocabulary with synonyms so you can see that lightbulb moment too! 

Using synonyms to build vocabulary is not only easy but also super fun with these engaging activities your students will love!

Building Excitement About Vocabulary  

As a primary teacher, there is truly nothing more exciting to me than when my students learn something that will serve them throughout their lives. Seeing the look on their face as they begin to fully understand a new concept makes my teacher's heart absolutely sing. 

Building excitement for vocabulary with synonyms is easy with these fun and engaging activities that feel more like a game than learning for your students.

Building vocabulary is so very important in first grade. This stage of learning is focused on the basic foundations of writing that will serve my students all throughout their academic careers. For this reason, I am highly committed to making sure my students are well equipped for what lies ahead! 

In first grade grammar, this means making sure my kiddos grow their vocabulary with synonyms. I've always loved writing and I can remember when I learned about this topic myself and was absolutely floored. For me, the idea that I could add more pizzazz to my writing was so very appealing. Now, as a teacher, I try to instill this same excitement in my students!

Introduce Synonyms 

To start this lesson out, I like to work on an anchor chart together with my students to help them understand exactly why synonyms are so much fun and beneficial to strong writing skills. 

Using an anchor chart like this will help your students connect their vocabulary and synonyms in an easy to understand way.
I have done this a lot of different ways over the years; sometimes we might use a premade chart and run through it together while other times I will make one on chart paper and draw my own pictures. 

The anchor chart that I have used also has a black and white version for students to color and add to their grammar notebooks. If you drew your anchor chart as a class, allow your students to recreate it on their own in their notebooks. This is a fun activity that will help reinforce this new concept. 

Whichever route you choose, be sure to take the time to cover the definition of synonyms and provide lots of examples. This activity is key for setting the stage of excitement around synonyms and building up the allure of a broad vocabulary. 

Practice Synonyms With Games

Once your kiddos have an understanding of this new term, it's time to start practicing! I like to use a variety of hands-on activities and games during center time and small groups to meet the needs of all of my students while teaching this new topic. 

Synonym Matching Game For Small Groups

Using a matching game like this will help your students understand that there are several different synonyms for a specific word which will help them better understand the vocabulary.
One of my tried and true favorites is a simple matching game activity. This is a great activity to extend your introduction of synonyms and offer more support to students who need it during small groups. 

First, place a picture card in a pocket chart or on the table. 

Allow students to identify what is happening on the card and then try to find a corresponding word card that goes with it. 

Students can take turns choosing the first word and then finding the matching synonym until all the cards are matched up with pictures. This game allows for lots of practice with new vocabulary words. 

Synonym puzzles like these are a great way to help your students understand what synonyms pair together with the targeted vocabulary word. They are also self checking which is great for fostering a sense of independence in your students.
Synonym Puzzles 

For a great center game option, I love puzzles! Puzzles are wonderful because they provide a bit more support than the matching game due to their self-correcting nature. 

If a student's answer isn't correct, they will easily be able to identify this since the pieces won't match up, making these great for independent workstations. 

I like to add a second element to puzzle centers with a recording sheet as well. The one we use asks students to choose a few synonym word pairs to write down and draw an illustration to go with them. 

Synonyms Partner Games

First graders love games, so I always try to squeeze them in whenever we can. One of their favorites is a fun spinner game activity they can play with a partner. Students will take turns spinning, reading, and covering synonyms on the game board. The student with the most synonyms covered, wins! 

Partner games are a great way to get your students to practice vocabulary and synonyms. This spinner game is fun and helps students work collaboratively to find the correct answers.We also use a recording sheet for this activity to get some extra writing practice in. Having students write down their answers in their grammar notebooks is a great option also. This will help your kiddos compile a list of synonyms to use later in their writing. 

Another classroom favorite is always the classic "memory game". Students can split into pairs for this one as well and take turns drawing cards. I find this one is especially helpful once children have a solid understanding of synonyms, so save this activity for the tail end of your lessons. Otherwise, play in small groups to offer support to students. 

Even More Synonyms Practice 

While centers and games are always fun activities, I still love using no-prep printables too! Using printables in conjunction with fun games enhances our lessons and offers me a way to provide my students with individual practice and quickly assess my students' understanding of the skill. 

Now, just because we are using worksheets doesn't mean they can't be fun! Worksheets can be fun and engaging, especially if you make sure to use a variety of them in your lessons. Some of my favorites for learning about synonyms cover:

Worksheets like these are a great way to help your students practice using synonyms to understand vocabulary.
  • Synonym Matching & Sorting
  • Identifying Synonyms
  • Reading & Highlighting Synonyms
  • Building Sentences with Synonyms 
  • Writing Sentences with Synonyms 
  • Synonyms Color By Code

Using a variety of worksheets that focus on different tasks will help keep your students' attention and interest in this topic. Typically, I will select a few more challenging worksheets to send home again for homework as well. I find that extra bit of practice never hurts! 

Close With A Whole Group Game

In true first grade style, we have to end this lesson with an extra fun classroom game, right? 

Whole group practice is easy with a fun "I have..." game you can play together as a class to practice identifying synonyms for targeted words.
I am sure you have probably played a version of "I have, who has?" in your classroom a time or two! This game is so much fun for closing out our synonyms unit! 

Students will take turns reading cards and asking who has the matching synonym until all the cards are read. 

I like to run through this game slowly the first time and then play a second time once the kids get the hang of it. 

I also love reviewing synonyms all year long with this game.  It's a great way to review the synonyms we have learned and keep them fresh in students' minds.

This is an excellent end-of-the-day activity for Fun Friday, and will leave your students with smiling faces! 

Teach Synonyms to Grow Vocabulary 

Teaching synonyms is so much fun when you use a variety of games, hands-on activities, and printables! Giving students the gift of broad vocabulary checks all the boxes for me as a teacher. It's especially rewarding when my students love the lessons as much as I do. 

If you're looking to add some fun and engaging vocabulary activities to your lessons, check out all of my favorites! I hope you have fun watching those lightbulbs go off, teacher friend! 

Using synonyms to build vocabulary is not only easy but also super fun with these engaging activities your students will love!

Save These Ideas for Later

Don't forget to save these ideas on your favorite Pinterest board for when you're ready to teach synonyms in your classroom! 

Using synonyms to build vocabulary is not only easy but also super fun with these engaging activities your students will love!

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