Awareness of synonyms for common words allows students to use a more precise word to make their text more effective.

Vocabulary: Is there a better word to use?


Vocabulary development during school years is an important aspect of learning, particularly for EAL/D students or other students who may start school with a limited vocabulary in English.

Make vocabulary learning part of all KLAs by explicitly teaching new or partially known words.

Provide students with texts of the targeted genre (on a device or on paper) and asked to replace specific underlined or bolded words, with a synonym.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: class word jar

While students are reading texts they collect new words on cards to add to the class word jar. The word should be written on one side of the card and the sentence it appears in on the other side.

Activity 2: class dictionary

When students have free time they can add words from the word jar to the class dictionary in a blank scrapbook. The scrapbook pages can be divided into four sections.

One section has the word and a student friendly definition (the type of word could also be identified for example noun, verb, adjective), one section has the sentence from the text, one section is an illustration of the word, one section includes the student’s own sentence.

Activity 3: vocabulary revision

Keep a list of new vocabulary introduced and regularly revise during whole-class lesson breaks or literacy activities in small groups. For example:

  • Tic/Tac/Toe on the board, Pictionary-like games, concentration or memory games, bingo games.

Activity 4: vocabulary bingo

Students choose 10 words from a list of about 20 words previously studied on the board and write them down on a grid. The teacher provides clues for words and students tick the word or cover it with a counter. For example:

  • this word is a synonym for ‘ran’. It means ‘run very fast in a race’. (sprint)

Activity 5: pair prompts

  • Students form pairs.
  • One student from each pair faces the board.
  • Write a short list of words previously studied on the board.
  • The student facing the whiteboard gives a clue for each word for the other person to guess. For example: this is another word for 'look' that means 'looked at someone quickly’. (glance)


Australian curriculum

ACELA1484: Expressing and developing ideas: Learn extended and technical vocabulary and ways of expressing opinion including modal verbs and adverbs..

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