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Adaptor Grants Home:
Teachers Network: Adaptor Grants: Help Save Wilbur

Original Project by Steven Manes

Adapted By:
Maureen Reilly
P.S. 261

New York, NY
Zipporiah Mills

Maureen entered the teaching profession after a ten-year career as a writer and producer for commercials, and websites such as LEGO.com and Cartoon Network.com.  Her past experience with working with technology professionally led her to weave technology into her curriculum.


I wanted my students to think more deeply about how to describe the qualities of the character Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.  After reading through Stephen Manes’ Be A Perfect Person in Just Three Days lesson plan, I decided to modify his vocabulary lesson (#5). In Manes’ lesson, he asks students to look up synonyms and antonyms to assigned words about a character on dictionary.com.  I modified this lesson by having my students find a new word to describe Wilbur on thesaurus.com (part of dictionary.com) based on a word that they created first.  This new word would be on Charlotte’s web that she would weave into her web to help save Wilbur.

Instructional Objectives

Students will:

  • identify traits of a character in literature
  • identify and use the thesaurus as a writing and vocabulary building tool
  • independently utilize an online source as a learning tool

Technology Integration

Students used laptop computers and an internet website as tools to look up new words on thesaurus.com.


I assessed my students through student observations during group discussion, partner work on the laptops, and individual project work.

Tips for Teachers

I recommend preparing students ahead of time on what a thesaurus is and have them first map out their own word webs before going to thesaurus.com.  Many students were overwhelmed with the number of similar words there were for the word “nice,” so a demo of a word that may come up with a large number of word matches may prepare and excite students for the activity.

Teacher-Created Worksheet Download (Word document).

Student Work Samples

Click on each thumbnail to see a full-screen version.


wilbur 1
wilbur 2
wilbur 3


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