Vocabulary Matching Exercise #5,
for SAT Study, Improved Reading Comprehension, and Better English: Upend, garden-variety, cutthroat, sterling, on the cusp
(19 words and idioms)
This activity is appropriate for high school students, especially those studying for the SAT (or wanting to write better essays).
In 2016, the “new SAT” will be eliminating arcane vocabulary words (“crepuscular,” “pulchritudinous”) and replacing them with the kinds of words that appear in academic writing. The words and idioms included in this exercise, such as “onus,” “up the ante,” and “layperson,” occur regularly in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and other publications intended for educated readers.
This activity is also appropriate for (extremely) Advanced ESL students – those who speak and read English well, but not well enough for graduate-level study.
These pages are meant to be printed out and spread across a large table or many smaller desks.
You will also need a computer with access to the Internet (or, if you are in a location where phone use is allowed, you can let the students use their phones). In a pinch, a dictionary (preferably several) will work, but online dictionaries really are better, allowing students to see and wade through multiple definitions of words.
Spread out the sentences in one place, and the words in another. Tell students they’re allowed to look up any words they want. Remind them that many words have more than one meaning, and that you will answer questions on which dictionary definition is the most relevant.
Then, let the students go! Your only job is to confirm when a word is matched with the correct sentence. (If it isn’t, try to lead students in the right direction with questions like, “What part of speech is ‘onus’? What part of speech does it look like we need in this sentence?” You will usually get more than one student trying to answer those questions.)
Let the students collaborate and offer suggestions.
When all the words are matched correctly with their sentences, have students read the completed sentences aloud, giving them the chance to ask questions about the meaning. (You can say, “Everybody grab a word-and-sentence you matched up!” or “Everybody grab the word-and-sentence closest to you.”)
An answer key is provided.