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Teaching Opposites to Young Learners

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Begin by calling students to sit on the carpet for a whole group introduction. Sit in front of the students with a bowl of ice in your hands. Ask students to turn and talk to a partner about what you are holding, and what they think you should do with the bowl of ice. Invite partners to share their thinking with the class.

Explain to students that you are going to put your hand in the bowl of ice to see what it feels like. Very dramatically, place your hand into the bowl and yell “OUCH, THAT IS HOT!!”  Give students time to display looks and comments of confusion and correction. Ask students to explain what was wrong with what you said and what they think you should have said. Use this to introduce the topic of opposites to students.

“Boys and girls, we use a lot of words to describe things we do, things we see, and things we feel. Many times, there can be two words that mean something completely different – like hot and cold. We call those words opposites. Today we are going to learn a little more about opposites and practice some examples.”

Guided Practice with the Learning Video

Continue the video, using it to prompt students to come up with opposite words described in the scenarios. Use the following prompting questions to promote student thinking:

  • If you like to play outside when the weather is hot, what might the weather be like to keep you inside? Think about an opposite word for hot.
  • What is an opposite word for float? What happens when something doesn’t float?
  • What is an opposite word for wet? When you stand in the sun for a long time, what will happen to you?
  • What is an opposite word for sweet? Can there be more than one opposite word for sweet? What are some examples you can think of?
  • Instead of crying over your spilled ice cream, what can you do? What is the opposite word for cry?

Once the video is over, ask students to turn to a partner and give two examples of opposite words that they saw in the video.



There are a variety of ways to provide additional support to students who have a hard time picking up this concept. Through intentional pairing, students can be paired with another student who has a good understanding of this concept in order to engage in peer-to-peer instruction. The teacher can also provide additional support by asking prompting questions to pairs who need extra help. These questions can be:

  • What is the opposite of _______?
  • Which word means the opposite of ______?
  • If you are not _________, then you are _______?
  • What did the video say was the opposite of ______?


For students who quickly grasp this concept, ask them to turn their construction paper over and brainstorm additional pairs of opposite words. Remind students that opposite words are two words that mean completely different things. Ask students to write the opposite words and draw pictures that go with the words in order to further extend learning.

Supporting Activities for Teaching Opposites

Using the provided opposite words, write one word on an index card and give each student an index card. Then, ask students to read their word, sounding out the letters. If students struggle to read their word, have them ask a peer to help them read the word, or go around and help any student that cannot sound their word out. Then ask students to go on a quick hunt around the classroom to find their opposite partner. Students will hold their index card to their chest so others can read their word. Guide any students who are having trouble finding their partner. Once all students have found their partner, go around the room and ask each pair to state their opposite words for everyone to hear. Repeat this activity as many times as time will permit.

Opposite words to include on index cards: hot, cold, happy, sad, big, small, wet, dry, day, night, short, tall, light, dark, soft, hard, push, pull, sit, stand, loud, quiet

Until next time, patience and practice!