Lesson Plans

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Introduction to the Visual Thesaurus

This Lesson at a Glance:
Grade Level(s): 5-8
Download Link: Student Handout

Lesson Objective:

After completing this lesson, students will have a better understanding of some common words, including an understanding that simple words may have multiple meanings. Students also learn of the value of using a thesaurus as part of their writing process. By learning more of the options for word choice, students can better express themselves.

Instructional Objective:

Vocabulary Development


Visual Thesaurus and Student Handout

Instructional Plan:

Students are asked to perform three major tasks:
  1. Understand meanings associated with a common adjective and explore vocabulary related to a common adjective;
  2. Make meaningful connections between the adjectives they chose and the words' multiple meanings;
  3. Learn and practice new vocabulary by writing sentences or a story incorporating the various words they've explored.


Individual: Lesson as given; "Challenge" section can be assigned or omitted based on level of students or time frame.

Small Group: Students work in groups of 2-3, share words they chose and explored, talk about ways they can make their language more interesting and varied using the vocabulary, write a short play using the words.

Whole class: Teacher features an "adjective of the day;" above lesson is adapted using just that adjective

ESL/LEP: Students should go through each of the adjectives as a means of expanding vocabulary; it's very important to turn off all parts of speech except adjectives. In consultation with an instructor or peer tutor, help students understand relationships among the words; for example, with adjectives, introduce a "simple" way of understanding relationships as a matter of degree... + for somewhat more, ++ for much more (big, huge[+], gigantic [++]).

Educational Standards

Level III, grades 6-8


General skills and strategies of the writing process (S. 1), including narrative accounts (S. 1.7) and composition based on personal attitudes or experience (S. 1.8)

Use of descriptive and figurative language, including thesaurus use for effective word choice (S. 2, 2.1)

Use of grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions, including use of adjectives to convey different meanings (S. 3, S. 3.5)


Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process (S. 5), including using a variety of strategies to extend vocabulary, improve understanding of definitions, and compare and verify words meanings, shades of meaning, and word differences in context (S. 5.3)


Note 1: The standards used in these lessons follow the McREL guidelines, concentrating on grades 6-8, primarily in the Language Arts (writing, reading, listening, and speaking). Abbreviated Standards are listed here.

Note 2: The ESL variations given are most suitable for intermediate and advanced learners.

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Comments from our users:

Monday October 24th 2011, 4:15 PM
Comment by: Anonymous
Do you have an ipad app?
Monday October 24th 2011, 4:43 PM
Comment by: Ben Zimmer (New York, NY)Visual Thesaurus ContributorVisual Thesaurus Moderator
Mike: We don't currently have an iPad app, but the Visual Thesaurus now works in the iPad browser. Read all about it here:


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