Well it’s Thesaurus Day. So what is a thesaurus? Sounds like it could be some kind of dinosaur!
Well they have been around since 1852, when Dr. Peter Mark Roget, a British doctor and mathematician published his collection of synonyms or words with similar meanings as one another, as the first thesaurus. So they quite old, but not dinosaurs
Building up children’s vocabulary is a key part of their development and a thesaurus is a key piece of equipment in that process. It has synonyms (words with similar meanings) and antonyms (words with opposite meanings)
But just thinking of it as a fancy type of dictionary is to miss the point.
I think of it more as cross-trainer for words. A gym to get your kinds minds fit, as well as their bodies.
Being able to use a wide range of different words that mean the same or similar things is a valuable skills for children. Some things they already have dozens of ways of saying – it’s boring, it’s dull, it’s tedious, it’s mind numbing, it’s monotonous, it’s tiresome, it’s mundane!
But why do they have so many versions of boring? The answer is that they need to keep finding different ways to express the same emotion, so parents eventually get the message and don’t just say “you always say that”.
Where their emotions are concerned, it just comes naturally or from their peers, who will have different ways of saying the same thing and they copy one another.
Burt when it comes to less emotional situations like writing essays or other school work, then there isn’t so much to fall back on.
That’s where a thesaurus comes in. By going to a printed Thesaurus like Roget’s Thesaurus or an online one like www.thesaurus.com, looking up a word like interesting (which is of course an antonym of boring) gives many new options. Try it yourself and see what you find.
We all fall into patterns of language usage. Words we use all the time and are comfortable with. But for children, they need to widen their vocabulary and not be limited by the words in their early set, built up from just the people around them.
So when they are next doing homework that needs them to write a story or essay, challenge them to try using new words from the thesaurus that mean the same as the ones they usually us when writing. See if rather than just an interesting story, it creates a richer more engaging, compelling and delightful story.
To get them into the habit and word fit, try this game.
Synonyms and Antonyms Game
- Pick an online Random Word Generator such as http://www.textfixer.com/tools/random-words.php or https://randomwordgenerator.com/ or https://www.randomlists.com/random-words and generate some random words.
- Then pick a word for the list and get the kids to write down as many words that mean the same as that (synonyms) or words that mean the opposite (antonyms).
- Check all the words on their lists at thesaurus.com
- The one with the highest score after 4 rounds wins
For maximum effect do this game once a week for a month and give prizes at the end of the month.