Playing With Words
The foundation of good writing is a good vocabulary. Word play is an often-overlooked tool for improving writing, so learn how to help your child enjoy writing with these word choice writing activities.
- Description Mystery: Find an item that your students are not familiar with. This could be an antique or obscure tool. A strange fruit or vegetable lends itself well to this game because it can be smelled and tasted in addition to being felt and touched. Challenge the young writers to come up with at least twenty adjectives that describe the item. When the list is complete, explain what it is and have students write a paragraph about their item, using the words they’ve generated.
- Definition Match-Up: Prepare for this game by finding at least twenty words your student is not likely to know. Write the definitions and the words on separate cards, and then try to match the two. Once the words are familiar, use the cards to play matching games such as Memory or Old Maid.
- Definition Guessing Game: Make a list of twenty or more obsure words with Greek and Latin roots that your student will not know. Be sure to note the definitions so that you can teach the words later. Have the students take guesses about the meanings, using clues such as morphemes (word parts or roots that have meaning in themselves, such as ‘cycle’ and ‘auto’). Once the guesses are in, award points for answers that are most accurate.
All of the words in the world won’t help a writer unless he or she can craft good sentences. Help your writer strengthen sentence sense with these activities.
- Scrambled Sentences: Create a number of sentences from five to fifteen words in length (depending on your child’s age and experience with words). Put each word on a separate card and mix them up. Give the student one scrambled sentence at a time and race the clock to put the words back into a grammatically correct construction. Remember that the final sentence may not be exactly like the original, but must be grammatically sound. Make the activity easier by putting phrases on cards instead of single words. Make it tougher by mixing two or more sentences together.
- Sentence Kernels: Start with a short, telegraphic sentence that contains a very simple subject and a very simple predicate. An example might be “Tom ran.” Take turns adding a word or phrase to the kernel and see how long of a sentence you can create together that is still grammatically sound. “Tom ran” might turn into “Tom ran around,” “Tom ran around the block,” “Tom quickly ran around the block,” “Tom quickly ran around the block in his bathrobe,” and so on.
Try these activities to build organizational and paragraphing skills.
- Article Match-Up: Cut a number of articles from a newspaper or magazine. Clip their titles off and be sure to trim each piece so they cannot be assembled like a puzzle. Shuffle articles and titles and have your student match each one by reading the content of the article and choosing the matching title.
- Terrific Titles: Cut articles and titles from a newspaper or magazine. Clip the titles from the articles. Shuffle both groups of items. For each article, have your student generate an appropriate title. Give points for the titles that come closest to the original. For each title, have your student write a mock paragraph that matches it. Give points for the paragraphs that match the original most closely.
- Brainstorming: Sometimes getting started is the toughest part. Choose a topic for a paragraph and prompt your student with questions as needed to elicit related words and phrases. Try to generate at least twenty ideas. Next, write that all-important topic sentence. Writing a closing sentence is also a great idea at this point. Now it’s a simple matter to copy the topic sentence, create at least three more sentences from the brainstormed ideas, and end with the closing. This powerful tool can help your child become more efficient at writing school assignments, and it will work best if you practice in a game-like way first.