Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Dead Words Come Alive!

Shannon Anderson


This is an exciting way for second graders to learn about synonyms and increase their vocabulary at a rapid pace. It is designed to be used all year on a daily basis.


The student knows homophones, synonyms, and antonyms for a variety of words.


-One sheet of newsprint or white paper for each student in your class
-brown and green paper (bulletin board or construction) for the leaves
-A pencil for each student
-Crayons for each student (optional)
-large brown tree made out of bulletin board paper or bought at a teacher supply store
-2 pocket folder for each student
-Dead Leaves List


1. Make or purchase a large brown tree and set it up in the classroom.
2. Cut out 20--25 brown leaves and 80--85 green leaves to be placed on the tree.
3. Prepare the “dead word” for the week on a brown leaf.
4. Have one sheet of newsprint or white paper for each student in your class.


NOTE: This lesson addressed only the synonym part of the standard.

1. Tell the students that this week we are starting something new. We are going to place leaves with words on them on our tree. Some leaves (words) will be dead and some will be alive. Ask students what they think this means. How can a word be dead? What can a dead word do? You explain that because this word is “dead” it can no longer be used in the students’ writing.

2. Introduce the “dead” word to the class. It should be written on a brown leaf. For the purpose of example the “dead” word for this week is good. Print out the Dead Leaves List for more examples.

3. Crumple up the brown leaf some so it appears as though it is wilted. Go to the tree and tape the leaf with the word GOOD written on it to the tree. Explain that GOOD has just withered and died on the tree and it is never to live in our writing again.

4. Explain that since GOOD has withered away and we will need to find more words that mean the same thing as GOOD to replace it. Ask the class if they know of any other words that can replace GOOD, since it is now a “dead” word.

5. Call on a student. If they come up with a synonym for GOOD write it on a green leaf. Explain to the students that we have just come up with a synonym for the word GOOD. A synonym is a word that means the same as another word. Tape this leaf to the tree so that all of the students can see it. Explain that this new word is written on a green leaf because it is alive and ready to be used in our writing.

6. Call on a student to use the synonym for GOOD in a sentence. Provide corrective feedback if necessary.

7. Explain to students that they are now going to practice using the new synonym for GOOD that they have just learned. Pass out one sheet of newsprint or white paper to each student.

8. Have the students fold the piece of paper in half matching the 12 inch sides together (hamburger fold). You will be folding a piece of paper in the front of the class as well so that the students can visually see which way to fold this paper.

9. Next, have them fold it in half again matching the 6 inch sides together (hamburger fold again). You again will be demonstrating.

10. Have them open their piece of paper and there should be four rectangles (2 on the top and 2 on the bottom). Explain that today, Monday, they will be using only the top left rectangle of this sheet of paper. Have them write a sentence using the synonym for GOOD at the top of the top left square of the paper.

11. The teacher should be walking around providing corrective feedback as necessary. Once their sentence is written and checked by you, have them quickly illustrate the sentence. This often helps the visual and kinesthetic learners.

12. While the students are illustrating you can pass out a two pocket folder to each student.

13. Once the students are done have them place this block sheet in the two pocket folder you provided.

14. Repeat steps 4—6 and 9—10 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings of that week.

15. On Friday morning review all of the synonyms for GOOD that the students have learned and used that week. Collect block sheets for teacher assessment.

NOTE: This is designed to be a 10 minute activity each morning for 10—15 weeks of school in a row, using a new “dead” word each week.


NOTE: This lesson assesses only the part of the standard that addresses synonyms

Each student knows and uses synonyms correctly for a weekly “dead word” by writing a sentence with each synonym and illustrating it.
Formatively assess each block picture daily by moving from student to student providing verbal feedback. Provide corrective feedback if the word is being used incorrectly in a sentence. If corrective feedback is needed a short one on one reteaching will occur.
The students will use their block pictures each week to show that they know synonyms for a variety of words.

Attached Files

Dead Leaves List     File Extension: pdf

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