Synonyms can be a difficult subject to grasp for English as a Second Language students. Synonyms can be very confusing for those who do not speak English as a native language simply because they do not understand the dictionary definition of them.
An excellent way to learn synonyms in an ESL class is to study the word individually, and then learn it’s other meanings. For instance, with the word bad, the synonyms are awful, terrible, dire, horrific, unpleasant, immoral, cruel, evil, or dreadful. Trying to learn all of those at once can be overwhelming. Rather than attempting to use all of them, start with the primary word and slowly begin to work the others into conversations are you get more comfortable.
Practice makes perfect, and the use of handouts is an excellent way for students to learn how to say the words and learn their meanings. Whether it is classroom activities, practice tests, or writing, handouts can be helpful because you see the information on paper, and often spelling and writing a word out can help a student remember it more easily.
As you begin grasping synonyms you can use word relationship activities to get more practice with them. You can pick a word, such as weak, and find synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms for the word. In this instance, synonyms can be fragile, frail, pointless, flimsy, and unsound. The antonyms would be robust, solid, muscular, strong, and fortified. The homonym would be weak.
These are just a couple of examples on how to get a better understanding of English language. It’s important to move at your own pace and to be comfortable using synonyms in the classroom before starting to use them in everyday conversations.