The Right Word – Roget and His Thesaurus


  • Written by: Jen Bryant 
  • Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet 
  • Age Range: 7 – 18 years
  • Grade Level: 2 – 5
  • Lexile Measure: 590
  • Hardcover: 42 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (September 15, 2014)

Summary: Roget and His Thesaurus is the story about Peter Roget and his invention of the thesaurus. The story describes his life growing up, constantly making lists. As Peter becomes a man he studies to be a doctor, but he never gives up on making his lists. He publishes his book, and it becomes wildly popular, as Roget did not want his book to be only for scholars, but for everyone’s use. Roget changed literature forever, by creating word categories and synonyms for everyone to use as they write.

Keywords: Splendid, informational, cheery, organized, quirky.

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

Suggested Delivery: Read-A-Loud

Electronic Resources: Pre: Here is a copy of Roget’s original thesaurus’s!:

Post: This link shows how Melissa Sweet illustrated the story. This is a really great resource to show how book illustrations are made, and is just a fun thing to show your class!

Website: Use this video before reading the story: 

Teaching Guide – I love Jen Bryant’s teaching guide! It is organized by discussion questions and activities, so while you have to choose which activity belongs where, you get the freedom to decide and interpret.

Key Vocabulary: Clattered

Tutor – Teacher who works with one student

Peppered – To put something in many places

Dandy – Very good/fine

Splendid – Great/wonderful

Wander – To move around to different places

Fret – Worry

Intrude – To go to a place you are not welcome

Despair – Losing hope

Badger – To bother someone with questions

Annoy – Making someone slightly angry

Plague – Large number of harmful things

Provoke – To make something happen

Harass – To constantly bother someone

Drive one mad – Annoy someone

Orderly – Very organized in a specific way

Lecture – A talk about a subject that teaches people about it

Concisely – Using as little words as possible

Clarity – To make something clear

Conviction – Proving someone guilty of a crime

Kindred – Alike or similar

Maiden – Young woman who is not married

Smitten – In love with someone

Before: Before showing students the youtube video, and the picture of Roget’s original thesaurus, describe to students what a thesaurus is. Concisely show students how to use a thesaurus, by modeling. Have students give you some word suggestions and you can flip to that word and read the synonyms. Teaching students to use a thesaurus is imperative to their writing. Strong writers use a variety of words that fit what they are trying to express in their writing. 

During: During the reading, ask students to think of other words that they can think of at the parts in the story where the synonyms are used for wedding, family, bother, and fine. This will enforce literal comprehension of the text, by enforcing students understanding of different words having similar meaning and tone.

After: Using word webs with different synonyms and definitions will help build schema of word sorting and literal comprehension and how to use a thesaurus. 

Writing Activity: Have students write a summary about the story. When they have completed this, have them circle ten words, that they must then use a thesaurus to find an alternative “right” word that would best fit. After this they should write why it is important to use a thesaurus, and have a discussion about the reasons why. This builds on more literal comprehension of the text and how to use the tools presented, but inferential comprehension can also be built into this lesson.


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