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Lesson Plan

Using Word Webs to Teach Synonyms for Commonly Used Words

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Grades 4 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Seven 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Angela Lanier

Oxon Hill, Maryland


International Literacy Association



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From Theory to Practice



"I feel good." "It was nice." "That was bad." Students respond to teachers' questions with these generic descriptions all the time, leaving teachers to dig deeper to figure out what students are really trying to say. Second-language learners also struggle to use descriptive words in written and oral language and tend to overuse common words, such as good, bad, and nice, due to their lack of knowledge of specific synonyms. In this multisession lesson, word webs are used to expose students to synonyms for common words, to help students choose synonyms that are appropriate for a given context, and to encourage students to use more descriptive words in their speech and writing. Student pairs then use words from the web in a skit they present to the class.

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Conversation Cards: Use these conversation cards to prompt students to use specific descriptions in response to engaging questions.

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Schifini, A. (1994). Language, literacy, and content instruction: Strategies for teachers. In K. Spangenberg-Urbschat & R. Pritchard (Eds.), Kids come in all languages: Reading instruction for ESL students (pp. 158179). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Vocabulary development can be challenging for second language learners. Students are expected to comprehend content vocabulary, idioms, words with multiple meanings, as well as everyday functional vocabulary.

  • Vocabulary instruction for second language learners should help them use familiar words to make connections to unfamiliar words. Instruction should also teach students how the words should be used. A word web is one tool that can facilitate this type of instruction.


Nagy, William. 1988. Teaching Vocabulary to Improve Reading Comprehension. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Semantic maps are useful when teaching a key word or concept in depth. Students can help brainstorm words that relate to the key word or concepts and, with the teacher's help, categorize the words.

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