Semantic Gradients with ROGET’S STUDENT THESAURUS (Scott Foresman, 1994)

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Expand children’s vocabulary by engaging partners in creating semantic gradients.

Pairs of students pick a word from below, look it up in the thesaurus, and choose three of the related words to order from least to most. For example, for afraid, they might write:

nervous                        frightened                          petrified

The thinking the partners do about the shades of meaning is what’s important here. I’ve heard one child tell another that messy shouldn’t go on a gradient for dirty because the things that are in a mess could be clean. Another pair deliberated over the placement of staring. It takes a lot of time but sometimes you don’t actually focus on what’s in front of you. For the children who are unfamiliar with many of these words, it’s helpful to have a list of what I call “Word Families” to refer to when writing. This Scott Foresman student thesaurus is my favorite one because in addition to using kid-friendly definitions, it includes a sentence with each target word in context.

Verbs:                                          Adjectives:

to walk                                        dirty

to cry                                           dark

to shut                                        funny

to shine                                      afraid

to throw                                     brave

to fall                                          happy

to eat                                          fragile                                                                              

to shout                                      confused

to start                                        rare

to ask                                          dull

to look at                                   interesting