There are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language, many derived from Latin and Greek, but many have evolved or even been invented over time. For example, “Google” is now a verb in the dictionary. Each word has its own special meaning and purpose. By choosing just the right one, you can make your writing come alive and have fun in the process.

For example, which sounds better?

  1.             It is hot today.
  2.             It is scorching today.

I had lots of other choices, too. I could have used sizzling, sweltering, roasting, burning, searing, blistering, or many others.

Using a thesaurus is like going to the word buffet. The variety is a lot of fun and it certainly makes writing more enjoyable. Obviously, it makes reading your writing more interesting, too. So, do your readers a favor and use a thesaurus.

Here are three great exercises.

  1.             Write five sentences on a whiteboard or a piece of paper and underline the word you want your students to change. Have them look up the word and replace it with their choice. If you are in a classroom and don’t have enough thesauruses to go around, you can look them up as a class and write the synonyms on the board.
  2.             Computer time: Both Microsoft Word and Appleworks have a built in thesaurus. Have your students write a paragraph and then pick five words to look up and change. They get to choose any five words.
  3.             Fairy Tales: Copy the first paragraph of just about any Fairy Tale on to a worksheet or a whiteboard and underline the words you want your students to look up in the thesaurus. Have them re-write the paragraph and then take turns reading them aloud. Let them be as silly as they want. Here is the first paragraph from The Ugly Duckling. They can even have fun changing the title.

Once upon a time, down on an old farm, lived a duck family, and Mother Duck had been sitting on a clutch of new eggs. One nice morning, the eggs hatched and out popped six chirpy ducklings. But one egg was bigger than the rest, and it didn’t hatch. Mother Duck couldn’t recall laying that seventh egg. How did it get there? TOCK! TOCK! The little prisoner was pecking inside his shell.

Scholastic, Houghton Mifflin and Barnes and Noble each publish a children’s thesaurus. They come with colorful pictures and are fun to browse even if you aren’t searching for a particular word. Encourage your children to play with their words!