Synonyms And Antonyms (KS2) Made Simple

Dad and child resting on the back of the sofa smiling at each other as they talk about synonyms and antonyms.
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Image © branin, under a Creative Commons license.

KS2 English helps give primary school children a major vocabulary boost, taking their writing to a new level.

Primary school children in Year 6 start to learn about words which are similar in meaning and opposite in meaning, otherwise known as synonyms and antonyms. With this new knowledge, new adjectives can be learnt and used in their writing for more sophisticated communication.

What Is A Synonym?

A synonym is a word that is similar in meaning to another word.

Top Tip: Syn-on-yms are si-mi-lar.

For Example:

'Happy' and 'cheerful'.

'Scared' and 'terrified'.

'Tired' and 'exhausted'.

'Young' and 'juvenile'.

'Miniscule' and 'tiny'.

'Complete' and 'finished'.

Little girl wearing glasses sat cross-legged on the table reading a book about synonyms and antonyms.
Image © ollyy, under a Creative Commons license.

What Is An Antonym?

An antonym is a word with the opposite meaning to another word.

For Example:

'Happy' and 'sad'.

'Scared' and 'confident'.

'Tired' and 'wide awake'.

'Young' and 'old'.

'Miniscule' and 'enormous'.

'Complete' and 'incomplete'.

When Are Synonyms And Antonyms Taught In Schools?

Teaching about synonyms and antonyms takes place in Year 6, when upper KS2 children learn the terms and begin using the thesaurus to expand their vocabulary. With the knowledge of how words are related by their meanings, they will then be able to use synonyms and antonyms to improve their writing.

For Example: instead of writing for 'said' after speech, children are encouraged to use alternative adjectives,  such as 'exclaimed', 'remarked' and 'bellowed', meaning their vocabulary will expand and their writing will be more engaging.

Mum and daughter sat at the kitchen table looking in a book to learn about synonyms and antonyms.
Image © pch.vector, under a Creative Commons license.

How Are Children Taught About Synonyms And Antonyms?

There are many resources employed for the teaching of antonyms and synonyms for Year 6 children:

1) They may be given a worksheet listing a number of adjectives, and for each one, a synonym and antonym will need to be written on either side.

2) 'Loop Cards' are a great visual and hands-on resource, where a strip of paper has two adjectives on each half of the strip. Strips have to be connected so that only synonyms are touching, resulting in a loop of cards being created.

3) Word searches, where words are listed on the page and synonyms of the words need to be searched for.

4) 'Don't Use Said' worksheets, where a passage of text is presented and all occurrences of 'said' must be replaced with a more entrancing adjective with similar meaning.

5) Rephrasing worksheets, similar to the 'Don't Use Said' worksheets but the text is filled with ordinary adjectives, all of which need to be replaced.

6) Children are encouraged to build up word banks (lists of suggested alternative adjectives) which can be used instead of the typical ones when writing.

Dad and daughter sat at the breakfast table discussing synonyms.
Image © sheremetaphoto, under a Creative Commons license.

What Can Parents Do To Help With Teaching Synonyms And Antonyms?

Some of the best ways to teach synonyms and antonyms to Year 6 students involve broadening their vocabulary in conversation, with the help of resources like the thesaurus. Keep one around in the car, in your bag or as an app on your phone, for easy access, giving you the opportunity to learn new words wherever you are.

For Example: Next time you ask a child "How are you?", encourage them to think of a word other than "fine" for a more genuine response.

Here are some fun activities to try with Year 6 kids to make use of their new knowledge and stop them asking "What are synonyms?"! They will be experts in no time after practising these activities:

1) Thesaurus Games: think of an adjective and ask the child to come up with one synonym and one antonym for the word, using a thesaurus. Then swap turns.

2) 'Is This A Synonym?' Think of an adjective, then think of another to be compared to the first. Ask if it is a synonym, antonym or neither, to test their knowledge. Then swap turns.

3) Re-phrase Relay: Grab one of the kids' favourite books and start reading from the first page. When you find a describing word, stop, pick up the thesaurus and write a synonym instead in pencil. Then, when you reach the next adjective, get the child to have a turn. At the end of the page, re-read the page and compare the original story to the re-phrased one! For extra fun, try replacing each adjective with its antonym!

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