#NoSummerSlide Week 11 – What’s the Word?

vocabulary gamesBy design, many (if not most) of the #NoSummerSlide ideas don’t have anything that kids can point to as “learning.” This week we’re taking a different tack by giving everyone (not just the kids!) a chance to see just how much they are growing as readers and communicators this summer.

Collecting words and playing with vocabulary – not spelling! – create opportunities for family members to see tangible growth.

Participating in these activities with the kids not only reinforces the importance you place on reading but shows them we never stop learning and growing.

Developing Reader Word Games

Idea #1: Word Jar – Find a spot to keep a container (cup, jar, shoe box), pen/pencil, and small pieces of paper. Whenever someone sees or hears a word that is new to them – or one where they’re not sure of the meaning, write it down and put it in the jar so it can be shared later.

Hint: Clear containers are better so everyone can see the growth/progress.

The most important part is that the word can come from ANYWHERE. Maybe you heard it on the news or radio, maybe your daughter heard it a song, or maybe it was part of the dialogue in a movie your son was watching. How the word is spelled isn’t important. Need some motivators to get people to play? Try these:

  • Create a goal to learn/find X number of words over a week.
  • Give each person their own jar or specific color of paper for healthy competition among siblings.
  • Consider teaming up – Kids v. parents is always popular!
  • Use colored paper or Post-its and post the words around the house like a word train after they are shared.

A corollary activity is to ask everyone what they think the word means. Hearing the word used in a sentence gives them context that can help them figure it out. Great practice for comprehension!

Idea #2: Magnets – What is the one door that everyone opens at least 3 times a day? The refrigerator!

Ye Olde Fridge is the perfect spot for word activities. Magnetic letters, words, or even just something to stick on paper – all are great!

Plan your activity so that every time someone goes into the fridge, they need to do a word activity.

  • Sound Off! is meant for toddlers and preschoolers. It is designed to help them connect the sounds of letters in the words they hear.
    • Put one letter on the refrigerator and explain what sound it makes.
    • Readers can tell you words that start with (or include) that sound, and/or find objects that meet the criteria.
  • Gimme a Letter! is great for helping developing readers because they can learn lots of words that have the same “base.” [You’ve probably heard them called word families.]
    • Put a standard piece of paper (with or without lines) on the front of the fridge.
    • Use two letter magnets to create your base (_at, _ig, _en, etc.)
    • Every time someone opens the fridge, they need to add a word with that base to the list.

Don’t let independent readers off the hook! They are beyond these kinds of games, but they should be helping younger brothers and sisters build these skills. Asking big brother to “make an S sound” is a very easy, quick way to be a role model for a little sister.

Activities for Older Readers

It is a bit harder – but still possible – to get independent readers (4th grade and older) to buy into word and vocabulary games. If you use a word jar, for example, you may want to add extra challenges, such as number of syllables, use in a sentence, found while reading (v. listening to someone), etc.

Idea #1: All in a Name! – This is all about using the letters in your child’s name. First name, last name, full name – you decide. Here are two (of many) ways to play:

  • Pick one family member’s name and ask each person to make as many words as they can from the letters.
  • Take each family member’s name and ask them to add a word that describes that person AND includes that letter.

Idea #2: Word-a-Day – Remember those desktop Word-a-Day calendars? They are still around, and you might just find one that is marked down at a discount store. An alternative would be to bookmark a website like Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day or subscribe to the Wordsmith.org A.Word.A.Day newsletter to get a daily email with a new word. Two ways to play:

  • Print or write the Word of The Day and attach it to the fridge. You can change it every day or put them together as a way to show how many words everyone has learned!
  • Share the word and ask someone to tell you what they think the meaning is and/or use it in a sentence.

Idea #3: What’s the Word For … – This is a synonym challenge. Write the “base” word on a piece of paper or note card.  At a family meal (or before screen time) challenge each person to name at least one other word that has a similar (or same) meaning. This is another activity where teamwork can be motivating – which team comes up with the most synonyms?

Making a collection is easier than you may think. A dozen words will last you almost two weeks. Here are a few to get you started. We purposefully chose different parts of speech.

ADJECTIVES: kind, happy, strong, colorful

ADVERBS: very, lovely, quietly

NOUNS: Kindness, chair, son, daughter, dad, mom, grandparent

VERB: run/ran, write/wrote, drive/drove

Note: A synonym may be a short phrase. For example, a synonym for “write” is “jot down.” Thesaurus.com is a great resource for getting lists of synonyms by parts of speech.

What are your favorite word and vocabulary games?

We’d love to hear about them.