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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp
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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.
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The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling by Subject
Language Arts for Homeschoolers

Word Retrieval Activities: Beginning Level

by Julie Shepherd knapp, copyright 2006, 2008

Some simple games and activities to help kids become interested
in words...

The ability to find the right words to express an idea is known as word
retrieval, word recall, or word-finding.  The activities and games in this
section provide a framework for children to practice thinking of and using
all kinds of words – nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs.    

Beginning Word Retrieval Activities:

Silly Sounding Sentences
Harry Potter walked into the room…
I Spy
Scrabble Pick
Word Chain
The Minister’s Cat
Slap-slap, Clap-clap, Click-click
Structured Poetry

Descriptions of the Activities:

Silly Sounding Sentences (Fun with Alliteration)
This is a game you can play anywhere -- standing in line, in the car, etc.  
The person who is it chooses a noun, then all players help to make up a
sentence that mostly uses words beginning with the same first letter as
the noun.  An example for the word “snake” – “Seven slippery, snuffly
snakes slid slowly southward.”  

If possible, write down the sentence for your child as it develops and then
show her what you have written, so she can add to it if she thinks of more
words.  At the end, write or type each sentence onto a blank sheet of
paper, and let your child illustrate them.  (Free online clip art can be
used for the illustrations).  Hang the final product for display.

Harry Potter walked into the room…
This activity calls for you and your child to take turns acting out verbs
and adverbs.  Start by saying, “Harry Potter ran into the room!”  Your
child, pretending to be Harry Potter, must act out your sentence.  Ask him
to say the verb as he acts it out (to re-enforce the association of the
action with the word label).  Of course, you may substitute any character
that would appeal to your child -- Winnie the Pooh, Cinderella, Steve
Irwin, etc..  

Use all the “movement” verbs you can think of that can be acted out –
walked, snuck, strode, crept, slid, crawled, climbed, etc.  If your child can
read, you could write the verbs on separate pieces of paper to be drawn
in turn from a box.  When you run out of “moving” verbs, move on to
“speaking” verbs, such as whispered, shouted, slurred, chuckled, etc.  
When you run out of good verbs, try the game using adverbs – “Harry
Potter proudly walked into the room.”… ‘Harry Potter nervously walked
into the room.”  Again, have the child repeat the adverb he is acting out.
This game can be so fun that your child may not let you have a turn ;-)

I Spy
A classic guessing game – pick an object visible in the room, then answer
yes or no questions from the other players until they guess what the
object is.  Help your child think of questions to ask, such as “Is it high or
low” “Is it blue?” “Is it animal/vegetable/mineral?”  If this is too hard for
your child, try identifying the color of the object, first, saying, "I spy
something blue", then continue with the questioning.  Also try a rhyming
version, saying, "I see something that rhymes with hat", and the child
thinks of possible rhymes then looks for those objects in the room.

La La La...
This is an activity based on a Sesame Street melody sung by Ernie and
Bert.  Check out the CD “Sing the Alphabet” or the video “Learning about
Letters” from the library to learn the song, if you are not familiar with it.
(The lyrics to
La La La can be found online)

After becoming familiar with the song, sing it using letters other than “L”.  
For example, start off with “B”:  “B-b-b-b – button.  B-b-b-b – bicycle. B-b-
b-b- blacksmith. B-b-b-b – buckle my shoe!””  

Try to think of funny, off-the-wall words, like Bert does… word such as
“bulgur wheat” or “bilge water” or “bacteria”.  If your child has trouble
thinking of words for the song, let them look at a book or dictionary to
find words.  This game may be too fast-paced for some kids -- you could
help them come up with word lists before-hand to lesson the pressure
when you are actually singing the song.

Scrabble Pick
Place scrabble tiles A thru Z in a bag.  Take turns choosing a tile then
think of words that begin with that letter.  Choose a fun category such as
foods, toys, animals, names, etc.  This is a great car game-- even Mom
can play while driving ;-)

Word Chain
Choose a word, then take turns thinking of a word that begins with the
ending sound of that word.  So, if the first word is "cat"... the next word
could be "top", followed by "paper", etc.

The Minister’s Cat
An old-time hand-clapping game played in a circle – players take turns
thinking of adjectives that begin with a given letter.  Everyone in the
group keeps time by clapping their hands.  The first round is for “A”
words, the second round is for “B”, and so on.  

The player whose turn it is, must say, in time to the clapping, “The
minister’s cat is a ______ cat”… inserting an adjective that begins with
the letter of that round.  If a player is “stumped”… that player must begin
the new round with the next letter.  

The game can become very fast-paced and stressful.  If your child has
trouble, slow down the speed of the clapping to give him more time to
think.  You may want to begin playing the game without any clapping…
until your child is more comfortable and has had some practice at it.

The phrase “The minister’s cat is a ____ cat” can, of course, be changed
to any phrase.  Choose one that your child would enjoy – maybe “Luke’s
ship is a _____ship” or “The dinosaurs were _____ lizards” or “Sarah
bought a _____ dress”.

Slap-slap, Clap-clap, Click-click
A hand-clapping game played in a circle – players take turns thinking of
items in a given category.  Everyone in the group keeps time by slapping
twice on their knees, then clapping their hands twice, then clicking their
fingers (first one hand, then the other).  

The player whose turn it is, must say the item he thought of at the point
where he is clicking his fingers.  For instance, if the category is “fruit”…
the player whose turn it is would slap his knees twice, clap his hands
twice, then, while clicking his fingers, say “bananas”.  If a player is
“stumped”… he must think of a new category, and then begin it.

The game can become very fast-paced and stressful.  If your child has
trouble, slow down the speed of the slapping, etc. to give him more time
to think.  You may want to begin playing the game without any slaps,
claps or clicks… until your child is more comfortable and has had some

For harder games go to:
Word Retrieval Activities: Advanced Level
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writing resources
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visual-spatial learners
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special needs
One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them,
to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns
at the right moment.  -- Hart Crane, poet (1899-1932)