EL Support Lesson

Synonyms Give Clues

Build your students' knowledge of synonyms to support their vocabulary development. This lesson can stand alone or be a pre-lesson for the *Get Clued in to Context Clues* lesson.
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Students will be able to use context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.


Students will be able to define words with synonyms using graphic organizers.

(2 minutes)
Frayer Model: Synonyms & AntonymsSubstitute with SynonymsContext Clues Check-InTeach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceVocabulary Cards: Synonyms Give CluesGlossary: Synonyms Give Clues
  • Facilitate a Think-Pair-Share about the question: "What are the different ways you can move across a room?"
  • Point out instances where students suggest the same mode of moving across a room with different words (e.g., marching, stomping). Engage the class in a discussion about whether they think those words mean the same thing or if there are differences in them.
  • Tell the class that today's lesson will be about Synonyms, which are words that mean the same or almost the same thing.
(8 minutes)
  • Introduce the tiered vocabulary words by displaying only the word on each of the Vocabulary Cards on a document camera. Ask students to rate their word knowledge by doing the following:
    • Thumbs up: I know the word and can explain what it means.
    • Thumbs sideways: I have heard the word, but I can't explain what it means.
    • Thumbs down: I do not know this word at all.
  • Pass out a set of Vocabulary Cards to each student, and go through each card by reading aloud the definitions.
  • Give each student a copy of the Glossary, and have them label the last column as Synonyms.
  • Guide the class in completing the Synonym column by modeling how to find a synonym for the word DefinitionIn a thesaurus.
  • Put students into partnerships and have them work together to complete the rest of the Synonym column on the Glossary. Share out and record the best synonyms on the teacher copy of the Glossary to keep displayed as a reference throughout the lesson.
(10 minutes)
  • Put students into partnerships, and give each student a copy of the Graphic Organizer Template: Frayer Model: Synonyms and Antonyms worksheet. Give each partnership an index card with a word on it.
  • Explain to students that synonyms can help us better learn the meaning of words. Synonyms help us make connections between words, which increases our vocabulary. Tell them that they will become word experts today by focusing on a single word for this activity.
  • Utilize the Vocabulary Cards to help explain the sections of the graphic organizer, and direct students to cross out the Antonyms section. Model completing the graphic organizer for one of the tiered vocabulary words.
  • Instruct partnerships to complete the Graphic Organizer Template: Frayer Model: Synonyms & Antonyms worksheet together for the word on their index card.
  • Scramble the partnerships, and have students present the information from their graphic organizers. Provide sentence stems, such as:
    • The word means ____.
    • My sentence is ____.
    • A synonym is ____.
    • My picture shows ____.
  • Call on nonvolunteers to share information about their focus word.
(12 minutes)
  • Instruct students to take out a blank sheet of paper to use as they participate in a Carousel activity. Point out the short passages (without the multiple choice options) from the Context Clues Check-In worksheet that have been placed around the room. Tell them that they will go around to each of the passages and read it together in a group, discussing what they think a synonym would be for the underlined word. If they are unable to come up with a synonym, a short phrase is fine. They will write down their answers on their blank sheet of paper.
  • Put students into small groups and assign them a passage to begin with. Give groups time at each station to read and discuss a synonym for the word before having them rotate. Have students rotate to two to three stations in the interest of time.
  • Invite students back to their seats to discuss the word meanings and synonyms that groups came up with in their discussions. Provide a sentence stem for students to use when sharing with the whole class. For example, "We think the word means ____."


  • Allow access to reference materials in home language (L1).
  • Have learners repeat instructions and key vocabulary to the teacher.
  • Reduce the number of questions assigned to students on the Substitute with Synonyms worksheet.


  • Allow learners to utilize glossaries and dictionaries for unfamiliar words.
  • Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions.
  • Instruct students to complete the Antonyms section of the Frayer Model: Synonyms & Antonyms worksheet.
  • Have learners repeat instructions and key vocabulary, summarizing important information for the class.
(6 minutes)
  • Hand out the Substitute with Synonyms worksheet to each student and go over the instructions. Quickly remind students that a synonym is a word that has the same or mostly the same meaning of another word. Demonstrate the strategy of substituting words. Model completing the first one by substituting the words from the word bank into the sentence.
  • Instruct students to complete the remainder of the worksheet independently.
(2 minutes)
  • Call on nonvolunteers to share the synonyms for the underlined words on the Substitute with Synonyms worksheet.
  • Remind students that synonyms are a helpful way to build our vocabulary and help us learn the meanings of new words when we are reading.

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