Part 2 of seriously un-serious* ways to help your child remember serious words

You know your child, you know what they like. The single rule might be: “Many ways for different brains.”

Here is a happy handful of word-learning games. Feel free to use these as springboards to get into the activity of designing or improvising games with your child as co-inventor.

1. Does your child sing? Have him sing the word, the whole list, or just sing-spell a word. It can be turned into a full impromptu kitchen concert! Try singing a well-known song, but replacing your target word for one of the chorus words, or adding a target word in to rehearse it:

“You’ve got a gregarious friend in me, you’ve got a gregarious friend in me.”

She might write a nonsense (or sensible) song using some of the words.

The extra pattern boost from melody can be powerful. It may get to the point that when she remembers, she’ll sing the word. (I once taught a very musical Y5 student to sing the formula for the area of a triangle; 3 years later, he could still sing the formula!)

2. Allocate words to numbers on a dice. However it lands, the next sentence in a story has to try and use the word in any way possible. It really helps for your child to know and apply; use the serious words in their creative writing. Words are democratic; they belong to us all. Rehearsing them helps solidify spelling, meaning and the confidence to use them again and again. Over time, your child could be encouraged to settle on a handful of lovely, adventurous words to use in more than one story, perhaps saving them for the real writing exam.

3. Use the target words when rehearsing and writing other features.

Inventing a bank of new, favourite similes (fresh, original ones), favourite adjectives (perhaps a couple of compound adjectives), favourite verbs for key actions (e.g. interesting synonyms for walking, running, eating, going, seeing, saying) and moods (happy, sad, angry, frightened, uncertain, euphoric, livid, etc.) is a great way to build options which can be used in all kinds of writing.

You could use a different target word for different features, or…

4. Take a word for a walk. Choose a word each and have a time-controlled, short game of adding the word into as many different techniques as possible. If the word has to change form to make the grammar correct, or so it can be used as a different type of word, even better. Give extra points for handling that!

For example:

Admonish (verb)

Meaning: to warn against doing something, (or in some cases, to do something, but perhaps there may be better words, like advise, for this positive purpose); to disprove of something, but in sort of a kind way. Hmm, this word is looking quite slippery already, but let’s have some fun with it.

Start a countdown timer. Give enough time to write a few different features, but not so long that you lose time to learn something else, and definitely not until your child falls asleep because they’ve written a hundred sentences! Either side of 4/5 minutes should work, but in the moment, you’ll know what’s best. Here’s my shot…

  1. Councils have left up signs to admonish people who continually drop litter in the parks. (Main verb)
  2. Mr Round, the head teacher, admonished Stephan for drawing only triangles in his maths book. (-ed past tense)
  3. Carter’s ears drooped, his tail ceased wagging and his head dropped, looking like an admonished school boy. (Simile) (Admonished becomes an adjective here!)
  4. The storm was an admonishment from Mother Earth for the farmer’s failure to gather her harvest in time. (Metaphor) (admonishment is a noun)
  5. Deeper and deeper, the wind forced its way into the forest, moaning and shrieking through the branches as if it were admonishing the trees for standing too close together. (Personification)
  6. Caring and graceful, kind and thoughtful, Marjory Duck quacked an admonishment at her ducklings to waste no time in entering the water, in case the clever, winter-starved fox had left its den in search of a delicate, youth-flavoured dinner! (With a paired adjective sentence.)

I definitely know the word admonish better than I did before writing that.

5. Collect challenging words alphabetically. You could supply a list and your child can see if there is a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet.

6. Similar to above, but use another prompt: the letters of your child’s name, or their favourite food, etc.

7. Rhyme as many words as you can with your target word in 30 seconds.

8. Draw quick pictures or diagrams around a word to illustrate what the word means: imagine you are translating the word for a person who doesn’t speak any language apart from pictures.

9. Have your child host a quick quiz for you and another grown up. You have to supply the meaning to words she gives from a challenging list. If you don’t know them, she gets a point; if you know them, you get a point.

Occasionally giving a wrong meaning on purpose can help your child learn a word by giving you the correct meaning. It is okay if you don’t know the meaning of a word. We need to let our children feel relaxed about not knowing something and share an excitement for moments when we do learn something.

10. Draw a word tower from the top, starting with the 1st letter, then 2 letters, 3 letters, etc., until the whole word is at the bottom.

It looks cool and can make syllables and suffixes clearer. The last, full word could be drawn in a different colour to help it stand out. Let your child discover that the last letter of each row also spells the word! These designs can be put up around the house – an un-serious exhibition of serious words.

11. Do you have a licence to use that word? If there are words she loves and would like to use, then you could do a spontaneous spelling permit game at odd times in the week. Stop what you are both doing, and say something like: Excuse Me miss, Pedantic Permit Police Patrol, can I see your license to use this word? She has to spell or write it out and show you. You could be given the list at the start of the week and use that to check the licences for each word.

12. Who needs Wimbledon? Word tennis is fun as well. You don’t even need a bat or ball, although you could do it with the real thing in a garden, or a paper ball in your hands. Take a list of anything – connectives, adverbs, etc, that you want to focus on.

Speak out a sentence either beginning with a word/word type, or else use the word somewhere in a sentence. Your opponent can’t hit back until they use another word. If you want, each have a list or a single umpire list that you can run to if you can’t remember the word. Give a time-limit to how long the person has to speak a sentence. Award tennis points however you want.

P.S. No word is too serious. You can have fun with anything. Be playful and listen to the sounds of words, the look of words. Fastidious is not a better word than fussy, or even the phrase incredibly clean, or spotless. If your child knows them all and can use them with their slightly different meanings, it gives him options for creating similes, alliteration, etc., that sparkle. A fastidious flower arranger is a beautiful phrase, but then a gardener who was fussy could also be described as being a fusspot for flowerpots, which has a different sound and feel and contains a pun on words as alliteration.

True, VVV (Very Varied Vocabulary) is a powerful tool with which to dazzle the exam marker, but it is also simply more fun to use!

Hope these help.

*Big disclaimer: Before you tell me off, before you admonish me against using incorrect prefixes, un-serious is not really a word, I just like the sound of it! The preferred prefix is non-serious, so perhaps teach your child that one, although possibly hold onto the hyphen to be safe, rather than nonserious.

The Same Word War…or a brand new game to play with your child

I’m right in the middle of sending some lovely learning to an online student when BANG…a new idea comes for a game, so I’m sharing it with you straight away. You will probably play it before us, as we are not skype-meeting until Friday. It’s amazing to think an idea might spread into the Learning Living-rooms of the world!

Words are slippery.

Some words can be nouns, some words can be verbs, while others still can be adjectives. Meanwhile, hundreds of words can be all of these word types and more.

They change form, become shape-shifting tricksters that turn up in multiple choice papers. For instance, which of these is the odd one out?

cut slice rip tear crevice crack

Only word-types will save you here! They are all nouns or verbs, except crevice, which is just a beautiful noun.

So…a game to play. First, choose a number that is on a dice you have. (You can use an online dice if you don’t have one to hand.) We’ll come back to this number shortly.

  1. Choose 10 words each that can be more than one word type. I found a wide selection here:

Or here: https://onweb3.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/663/

This site has a huge list of sentences that show the words in their different roles.

2. Write them as two lists. You don’t have to choose the same words. You could choose a word one at a time to prevent this, or make up a fun rule that if you both have the same word, you both have to do a bird impression or a press up if one of you lands on it- it’s totally up to you!

3. Roll a dice. (Lots of variations: 6-9 sided dice, 2 dice and 12 words, etc.)

4. Count down the list to the word. (Keep going down and up the list, or chart your own path, like jumping in 3s.)

5. Both of you write sentences that use your word in different ways. E.g. call as a noun and a verb. First to finish both sentences wins a point.

6. Remember your special number from the start? If you roll that number, you have a chance to battle for one of your opponent’s words.

7. Let’s say you choose your opponent’s word clean. Each of you write in secret, behind your hand, a sentence using that word in any way you want.

8. If you both use the word as the same word type in your sentences, e.g. as an adjective (Water is a lovely drink when clean; Auntie’s car was incredibly clean.), you win the word from your opponent.

9. But…if it is different, your opponent can choose one of your words and battle for it.

When that battle has played out, you continue taking turns to roll.

Your winner could be:

  • the first person to have all the words;
  • the first person to win 3 words;
  • the person with the most words after 5-10 minutes. (Quite useful for keeping pace and also stopping the game running on.)

What’s the point of the game?

  • Fun.
  • Relationship building.
  • Secret learning about words that are more than one word type, which could help in multiple choice language tests or comprehension.
  • A warm-up to a writing lesson in which these multi-jobbing, slippery words are used on purpose to practise.
  • A springboard to creating more games between you.
  • A quick learning boost when there are 10 minutes to spare. Note: I challenge you to keep a dice close at hand throughout your child’s childhood. They are portable learning legends!
  • Writing practice. You could set extra rules around the types of sentence you use. For example, your sentences need to be compound or complex, not simple. This reduces the risk of writing an over-easy sentence in order to finish writing first!
  • The game element could make the learning more memorable. We often remember more of what is unusual. Think of a crowded street of people in ordinary clothes, among which strolls a lady in a yellow and purple suit, two golden walking sticks, one silver shoe and one welly which is filled with water. Who do you think you might remember from that street?
  • If it’s fun, it can grow enthusiasm for the next learning session. You can repeat the game – your child might even ask to play it again, perhaps with a different rule. Sometimes, if a child is initially reluctant to start a learning session, I simply say, “We’re going to play a game,” and begin. I don’t call it a learning session. The appearance of a dice can be magical! Games can help enormously with those moments, whether they come at the start or the middle of a lesson.

I’ve created an instant ebook bundle for you of targeted 11+ happy learning material to share and learn together with your child. Click here for 50% off until our precious children return to school.

“Grow wherever life puts you.”

Ben Okri

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The headline says it all, so if you want to skip to the books, please do. Goodness knows how we make it through this, but we have to believe at some point that schools will reopen and your hoped-for grammar school will admit the next intake. It could be sooner than we think or later than we think, but it will happen.

Whatever you are doing to stay safe and occupied, we must keep our children learning.

The good habits you and schools have established to help your children learn are crucial at this moment. Learning provides much more than a distraction from worry – it paves the way for tomorrow’s generation of heroes and humans who will shape and build and grow the best future possible. It sets your child on their best path.

11 plus exams will at some point be a normal reality again. Please – little by little – stay learning with precision and purpose. We need our children to be progressing and prepared, not in a spirit of competition or worry, but in a happy spirit of continuing the love of learning and the happiness and stimulation that come from achievement and focus. It is good that our highest goals as humans remain at the core of what we do. It is not easy, but it is good.

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Thank you for caring for and teaching your children. I hope that as you stay at home, your 50% off voucher code helps you and your child on their path to eventual eleven plus success.

Children, keep creating, keep learning and keep laughing. Every smile, every word, every number, every picture is worth it.

My best, Lee

London

Bank holidays are fantastic 11plus leaning moments!

Time is one of the most powerful learning tools when it comes to the 11plus. Spaced learning, learning over time, helps your child layer their learning, building up to a full understanding and a full skill set in time for the test later in the year. There is no substitute for starting early and grabbing moments of time for learning throughout a long period. Today is one of those times – a full bank holiday. Help your child commit to 2-3 hours of learning today to benefit from uninterrupted thinking time.

Is there a topic or type of writing your child is looking to improve? Why not dedicate today’s gift of time to doing just that? If you all have itchy feet, take off to a cafe somewhere and turn it into an event.

Today will be gone by the end of the day; always has, always will. Will your child know something new, or understand something they already know more completely, by the end of this day? Could they write a story or a description with perhaps an extra focus on using all punctuation, or using lots of different sentence starters?

Time. It helps. You can help your child. My next blog covers a simply stunning idea, an undeniable power that is at work in all grown ups 100% of the time, a power that you need to be aware of and need to harness and use when caring for and preparing a child for their 11plus.

Start learning, stay learning.

My best, Lee at 11plushappy.com