Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Test-taking Strategies: Synonyms and Antonyms (A FREE Lesson!)

Teach your students three important test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!

Hello! It's Deb Hanson from Crafting Connections today! 
What is your reaction when you see an ELA test question like this?
Teach your students these three test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!
Border by Krista Wallden. Font by KG Fonts.
As an ELL specialist who worked with 3rd-5th grade ELLs for more than ten years, I can tell you that viewing such a question causes me to break out in a sweat! While my ELLs know the difference between a synonym and antonym, they so often don't get to prove their knowledge because of the advanced vocabulary words, like tenacious, present in multiple choice questions.

After encountering several standardized test questions like this one, I began to teach my ELLs a few test-taking strategies in hopes that I would be giving them the tools that would allow them to be as successful as possible. In my opinion, these strategies are beneficial for all students, not just ELLs.

Strategy #1

Teach your students these three test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!
Clip art by Educlips and Hot Dawg Illustrations. Background by RebeccaB Designs.
This slide was taken from my Advanced Synonym and Antonym PowerPoint.
After naming the strategy, I employ think-alouds as I tackle the tenacious card above. My think-aloud goes something like this: I'm going to see if using context clues will help me to figure this out. The word tenacious is being used to describe an athlete. I know an athlete is someone who participates in sports, so I'm going to visualize a soccer player playing a game. Choice A says cautious. I don't think this is the right answer, because most good athletes aren't cautious with every move they make. In fact, good athletes are usually more fearless! I'm going to eliminate cautious. Choice B says determined. Good athletes are usually quite determined- they do everything possible to try to win each game. Determined could definitely be the correct answer, but I'm going to check to make sure the other two aren't better answers. Choice C says weak. No, I know that weak is not a good word to describe an athlete, so tenacious can't mean the same thing as weak. Choice D says thoughtful. I don't think this is the right answer, because most of the time an athlete doesn't have time to be thoughtful. They have to make split-second decisions. Of the four choices listed, I think determined is the most likely synonym for tenacious. I'm going to choose B.


Strategy #2

Teach your students these three test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!
I would use the following card to model/think aloud this strategy:
Teach your students these three test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!
Some of the key points I would make in my think-aloud include:
  • I'm looking for an ANTONYM this time, so I have to change my thinking a bit.
  • I remember learning that the Greek root hydra- means water.
  • The de- in front of hydra- is a prefix. In words like defrost and detangle, the prefix de- means to remove.
  • Using what I know about roots, I can determine that dehydrated refers to removing water from something. If you remove water from fruits and vegetables, they would be quite dry.
  • However, I cannot choose answer C because I'm looking for the ANTONYM... not the synonym!  If dehydrated means dry, then the ANTONYM would most likely be C (wet). 

Strategy #3

Teach your students these three test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!
I would use the following card to model/think aloud this strategy:
Teach your students these three test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!
Some of the key points I would make in my think-aloud include:
  • I'm looking for a SYNONYM this time.
  • I don't know what amiable means, but since it's being used to describe the word friend, I am going to assume that it's a positive character trait. Therefore, I'm going to eliminate B (angry).
  • When I look at A, I realize that I don't know what the word means, but I get the feeling that prenentious has a negative connotation- like someone is trying to pretend to be better than someone else, or someone who is hiding their true behavior or feelings. I'm going to eliminate A (pretentious). 
  • I don't know the meaning of affable or indignant, so now I'm just going to have to take a guess... but at least I eliminated two options before guessing! (At this point, I would switch to teacher-mode, and ask if any students know which option is correct.)

To conclude this lesson, I would distribute this exit slip, and have my students answer these three multiple choice questions independently, using the strategies we just discussed.
Teach your students these three test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!

If you would like to use the multiple choice cards and the exit ticket with your own students, click HERE to download them for FREE!
Teach your students these three test strategies for identifying synonyms and antonyms on standardized tests... even when they don't know what a word means! This FREE lesson contains a poster, an exit ticket, and three multiple choice teaching examples!

These strategies are also introduced in my Continuing Synonyms and Antonyms PowerPoint, and more practice opportunities are provided in my Synonyms and Antonyms Task Cards. Click on either of the images to take a closer look at these resources, which are available for purchase in my TpT store.


If you have other test-taking strategies you teach your students, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear about them! Thanks for stopping by today!