Lesson Question:

How can the Visual Thesaurus help students improve their vocabularies by matching words to their antonym counterparts?

Applicable Grades:

(Note: this lesson could also work well with ESL students of any grade level.)

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, your classroom will celebrate "opposite day" by using the VT to match a list of vocabulary words to their antonym counterparts. Then, students can use their knowledge of these antonym pairs in a game of "antonyms bingo."

Length of Lesson:

One hour

Instructional Objectives:

Students will:
  • learn the definition of "antonym" and how the VT identifies antonym pairs
  • match familiar and unfamiliar words with their antonyms
  • synthesize their knowledge of antonyms by playing "antonyms bingo"


  • index cards or sheets of blank paper
  • student notebooks
  • white board
  • computers with Internet access
  • "Antonym Pairs" [click here to download]
  • "Bingo Chart" [click here to download]

Warm Up:

Preparing Vocabulary Cards:
  • Before class, divide the number of students in your class by two to figure out how many pairs of vocabulary cards you will need to create for the following matching activity. Then, choose that number of antonym pairs from the "Antonym Pairs" page [click here to download] and write each of the chosen vocabulary words from the pairs on a separate sheet of paper or index card. For example, if you have 32 students, choose 16 out of the 17 antonym pairs listed on the sheet and create 32 vocabulary cards.
Introducing antonyms and opposite day:
  • Inform students that today is "opposite day" and they will therefore be learning some new vocabulary words and their "antonyms," or words that express the opposite meaning as the original words. For example, the opposite of "antonym" is "synonym" -- or a word that is similar to another word. (Check out the lesson plan Introducing Synonyms to Early Writers to introduce students to synonyms if they have not yet explored that concept.)


Using the VT to transform compliments with antonyms:
  • As an opening "opposite day" exercise, ask students to write down in their notebooks a sentence that says something nice about someone in the classroom. For example: "Mike is good at dodge ball." "Anne is nice." Or, "Sam is a fast runner." Then, have students deliver their compliments in "opposite day" style to their peers by using antonyms to communicate the opposite of their original thoughts (i.e., Mike, you are bad at dodge ball." "Anne, you are mean." "Sam, you are a slow runner.").
  • Give students a chance to deliver their opposite day-style compliments and then choose one antonym pair to display on the white board by using the Visual Thesaurus. For example, if the antonym pair is "fast" and "slow," display the word web for "fast" on the white board and explain to students that the dashed red line connecting "fast" and "slow" means that these two words are antonyms.
Matching vocabulary words to their antonyms:
  • Pass out a vocabulary card to each student in the room by placing the card face down in front of the student. Inform students that they can peek at their words but they should not share their words with other students until the matching game begins.
  • Explain to students that it is ok if they do not already know their assigned words. Give students the opportunity to learn their words by using the Visual Thesaurus. In addition to learning their assigned word's definition, they should also learn its pronunciation (by clicking on the speaker icon to the right of the word) and the word's antonym(s) (connected to the word by the dashed red line).
  • Once the class has mastered its new vocabulary words, direct students to leave their desks and find "their opposites." In other words, each student needs to locate the student in the room who has a vocabulary card with an antonym for his or her assigned vocabulary word.
  • After students have located their antonym partners, they should teach each other the definitions and pronunciations of their words.
  • Have each partnership in turn "teach" their antonym pair to the class by reading their vocabulary words aloud and by explaining how the two words have opposite meanings.


Playing Antonyms Bingo:
  • Hand each student a blank "Bingo Chart" [click here to download] and explain to students they will be reviewing the antonym pairs learned in class by playing a round or two of antonyms bingo.
  • Write all the vocabulary words used in the antonym matching exercise on the board in a random order and direct students to choose twenty-five of the words to fill in the blank boxes of their bingo charts (one word per box).
  • Warn students that since it is "opposite day" that instead of crossing out the word that is called out, they need to cross out its antonym (of course, through the course of the game, both words in each antonym pair may eventually be crossed out).
  • Call out vocabulary words one at a time, pausing between words to give students time to try to locate and cross out each word's antonym on their charts.
  • Award the first student to cross out five antonyms in a row (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) as "THE LOSER" (remember: it's opposite day!).

Extending the Lesson:

  • A fun way you could reinforce this vocabulary lesson would be to have students use the antonym pairs in a creative writing assignment. For example, pass out the "Antonym Pairs" page [click here to download] and challenge students to use eight of the words in the left column of the chart in a short story. Then, have them trade stories with another classmate to transform the story by replacing those eight words with their antonyms (in the right column of the chart). How did the story's meaning change due to the antonym swaps?


  • By the end of the antonym matching exercise, each student should be paired with the student who is holding his or her word's antonym.
  • Students' mastery of the vocabulary words and antonym pairs in this lesson could be easily assessed by giving the class a subsequent quiz where you call out vocabulary words from the "Antonym Pairs" list, and students must write down their antonyms.

Educational Standards:

Language Arts

Standard 5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Level II (Grades 3-5)

6. Uses word reference materials (e.g., glossary, dictionary, thesaurus) to determine the meaning, pronunciation, and derivations of unknown words

7. Understands level-appropriate reading vocabulary (e.g., synonyms, antonyms, homophones, multi-meaning words)

Standard 8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Level II (Grades 3-5)

1. Contributes to group discussions

2. Asks questions in class (e.g., when he or she is confused, to seek others' opinions and comments)

3. Responds to questions and comments (e.g., gives reasons in support of opinions, responds to others' ideas)

4. Listens to classmates and adults (e.g., does not interrupt, faces the speaker, asks questions, summarizes or paraphrases to confirm understanding, gives feedback, eliminates barriers to effective listening)

5. Uses strategies to convey a clear main point when speaking (e.g., expresses ideas in a logical manner, uses specific vocabulary to establish tone and present information)

6. Uses level-appropriate vocabulary in speech (e.g., familiar idioms, similes, word play)

7. Makes basic oral presentations to class (e.g., uses subject-related information and vocabulary; includes content appropriate to the audience; relates ideas and observations; incorporates visual aids or props; incorporates several sources of information)