Studying Words without Workbooks

The Webster's Thesaurus is a very used book at our house. The children use it to look up synonyms and antonyms for word studies and for creative writing.

I purchased one for each of my children and that was not a big deal since they usually can be bought for around $1.00 each, but this was during the 1990's. Even if you have to pay $2.00, that is still a good deal because this little book is easy to use and has thousands of words. I am speaking of the thesaurus not the dictionary. A very good dictionary is hard to find. We use the giant 2 volume dictionary that comes with the World Book Encyclopedia. Well, back to this thesaurus... Like I said before it is very easy to use. A child as young as eight years old can use this thesaurus.

synonym finderThere are other thesauruses in paperback form that are very easy to use and some have more features than the Webster's pictured on the left. The average cost of the others is around $6.00. Some of them have more information than just synonyms and antonyms that might be useful for the older student. Some of the thesauruses separate the synonyms for each of the different meanings of each word, and tell the parts of speech.

The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale, pictured right, is an excellent thesaurus. It is what we used once the children were around 12.

What We Do (Did)

I made each of my children a word book. This is a small blank booklet with lined pages. I assigned each page a letter of the alphabet. Instructions and the file for making the word book is at: How to Make the 32-Page Word Book

Using the Word Book

If I have them study the word "endeavor" (for example), they will write "endeavor" on the E page in their word book and then they will find "endeavor" in the thesaurus. They will then write all the synonyms and antonyms (if any) for endeavor. Be sure to teach them to pronounce any words that they cannot pronounce correctly.

The Subtle Differences

This little exercise can be carried further by having the children make up a sentence using the assigned word(s) and reading their sentence aloud. Optionally, the student can replace the assigned word(s) with some of the synonyms to see how they work. The point to that is to learn the subtle differences of word meanings.

Parts of Speech and Etymology

Also if you have an excellent dictionary, the history of the word can be explored a bit. If you want to work in grammar, you can have the children tell which part of speech the word is as it is used in their sentences. Some of the thesauruses tell the part of speech while others do not. Many words have more than one part of speech. Sometimes the part of speech can be changed by adding a suffix.

Alphabetical Order

We usually work on two words a day. On Fridays, I let them choose the words for that day. Also, on Friday, you can have the children put this week's words in alphabetical order if they need practice in that area.

Preparing and Teacher-ly Things

To prepare for this, thumb through the thesaurus and find a couple of words for each day. Or you can take words from their spelling lists if they are rich in meaning. I prefer to chose words that they don't know, words that are challenging. During creative writing class, encourage your children to replace some of the common adjectives and verbs from their "writings" with words from their thesaurus.

If you want to make a booklet, follow the link Make a Word Study Booklet for instructions and the links to the print-outs for making the booklet.

Vocabulary Lists

Some of the vocabulary lists are gigantic. It is not necessary to use every word in these lists. Choose words from the lists that you feel would benefit your child.

Here's a list of 869 words for 4th through 6th grades. Vocabulary Words

Greek Prefixes: List of 26 Greek Prefixes, their meaning and example words

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