Vocabulary Ladders

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Vocabulary ladders are a simple, easy to execute activity for developing students’ vocabulary.

  • Have students use a thesaurus to find synonyms for a particular word (e.g., hate, like, sad, happy, quick, slow, vile, wonderful – the list is endless).
  • Ask students to choose 5 words, preferably ones that they wouldn’t usually use instinctively in their writing.
  • The students draw a ladder and place the words in order of intensity. Next to each word, students provide an example of an experience that, for them, would demonstrate the intensity of the word.
  • Keep in mind that to some extent this is a subjective exercise and students may put the same words in a different order. The key is that they can justify their selection. Is, for example, eating grasshoppers more disgusting than walking home in the rain?