Using a Thesaurus and Building Vocabulary

Here is a homeschool idea to help build your children’s vocabulary and introduce them to a very important writing tool: a Thesaurus.


A limited vocabulary really kills the detail in our children’s writing. This is especially true when they write longer papers or reports. So today I experimented with a writing exercise to try to increase their vocabulary. It was a really easy writing assignment that, if repeated, will be an awesome foundation for your children. I was pleasantly surprised at the result today. This is the assignment I gave my eight year old:


1.Using a thesaurus (there are free versions online) find synonyms for the words pretty, happy, excited, jealous and funny (these were just random words I chose).

2.Find antonyms for the words grumpy, scared and lazy.

3. Write a sentence for each word using both the original word I gave you and it’s synonym or antonym you found.


These are the synonyms she chose:

  • lovely (pretty)
  • merry (happy)
  • thrilled (excited)
  • jealous (grudging)
  • amusing (funny)


These are the antonyms she chose:

  • good-humored (grumpy)
  • reassured (scared)
  • industrious (lazy)


These are the sentences using synonyms she came up with:

  1. Can she be pretty and lovely?
  2. He was happy because his sister was very merry.
  3. Her sister was excited so she was thrilled.
  4. He was jealous that he could play a computer, and he was grudging to learn how too. (I now have the opportunity to teach her the meaning of each word and help her see how she could use them in the right context.) J
  5. She was funny and amusing.


These are the sentences using antonyms she came up with:

  1. Can she be grumpy and good-humored at the same time?
  2. She was scared and at the same time reassured.
  3. On Wednesday he was lazy but on Thursday he was industrious.


As you can see the sentences were very simple but there was more depth to them than before. This exercise was helpful in expanding her vision about words and meanings of words. Her sentences were more interesting with the extra words, which actually made the writing process more interesting to her as well as to the reader. She enjoyed the process of finding new words and it helped create extra motivation and desire to write because finding new ways to write things added life and energy to the task! Another major benefit is that she now knows what a Thesaurus is and how to use it.

You can modify this exercise for any age and would benefit even those much older than eight. Use bigger words and require a paragraph for those that are older. If you wanted to help them work with the correct meaning of each word, you could write a sentence leaving a blank space requiring your child to determine which word belongs based on the context of the sentence.

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