Product Review of Thesaurus.com
Beyond the most obvious use — introducing learners to the tool and having them refer to it when working on their writing assignments — Thesaurus.com has a few other things to offer classrooms. Teachers may want to check out the home page and browse through the articles, slide shows, and videos. The content there varies in quality, but much of it syncs up with trending words and topics based on events happening in politics and pop culture. These would serve as nice introductions to topical class discussions, or as a way to introduce learners to new words on a weekly basis. In terms of the search tool itself, make sure to orient learners to the various options on offer. Since the design is very busy (and has intrusive ads), you’ll want to help learners take it all in. One feature you might point learners toward is the Complexity and Length sliders. When using a thesaurus, learners can often choose ineffective, overly complex words in an effort to be “academic.” Invite learners to keep the Complexity slider edged toward the left to highlight more common, and potentially more effective, words. Students will also benefit from scrolling down and browsing the related words as well as the example sentences. Also note that near the top of the search results (and very easy to miss) are tabs for the different parts of speech forms a word might take. Students will want to make sure they’re in the appropriate tab when browsing.
Finally, you might try playing a game with your class by projecting Thesaurus.com to the whole class. Bring learners to the class computer (either solo or in groups) and give them a word like “evil.” Their objective is to type a synonym into Thesaurus.com, such as “mean” or “bad,” that’ll feature the word you gave them in the results of the word they typed in. Note that you’ll need to have learners select the right part-of-speech tab (e.g., the adjective tab) to make the game work.