Wednesday, August 14, 2013

V is for Viper: The Word Game

     Remember school vocabulary tests?  Lists of words that you probably would never use again once you took your college boards?  (I don't remember the last time I used the word pusillanimous, do you?)

     Those old words lists did have their uses. Occasionally a decent word popped up, one that you could use in every day life without sounding pompous or pretentious (like those two words, for instance.)

     My writing camps this summer had some outstanding writers. I did not realize at first, that roughly half of my campers were ESOL students (English Speakers of Another Language.)  The only giveaway was a somewhat limited vocabulary.  They tended to use the same words five and six times within a couple of paragraphs.

     My Young Author camps are about fostering a love of writing...not to teach grammar, spelling or punctuation.  That's the job of the school.  However, without a good working vocabulary, your writing will never improve.  In other years, I have had kids keep vocabulary lists...words they have come across in reading, or have heard, to look up on their own. This year's group was much much younger than usual, and were not reading particularly challenging books.  So how to build vocabulary and still have fun?

    The Word Game.

     This is actually a rip off of one of my favorite games, Scategories. Scategories is played with 4-8 people.  Categories are called out (colors, dog breeds, sports) and then a letter. The player has to come up with a color or dog or sport that begins with that letter. Anyone whose answer is duplicated does not get a point. Anyone who find a unique word for that category and letter, scores a point.

     I had the campers write the alphabet down the side of a sheet of notebook paper, as if they were numbering for a spelling test.  I then would announce a category ('actions kids do",  "another word for sad" "an animal") and gave the group five minutes to come up with one word for each letter with double points for "hard" letters (X, Q, V,Y).  When the time was up, the kids shared their lists.

    This worked on several levels.  1) These kids were competitive.  2) They couldn't cheat because duplicate answers didn't count. 3) They learned from each other when they shared their answers with the group. 4) Because it was a  game, no one ever realized we were building vocabulary.

    Best of all, we had fun. So much fun, some days the kids wanted to cut their breaks short and play "The Word Game."  You can't ask for a better result than that!

P.S.  I sometimes use a version of this when I am trying to think of character names rapidly...although as of yet, none of my characters have been named Xavier or Yarnell.

     Don't forget their is still time to enter our latest book giveaway for TA Esther's baby board book TXTING MAMA.  Click here.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

1 comment:

Carmela Martino said...

This game sounds like great fun for kids, MA. I'm going to have to try it in my camps. :-)