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

Word Retrieval Activities: Advanced Level

by Julie Shepherd knapp, copyright 2006, 2008

Some harder games and activities to help kids become interested in

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.  Some
activities use board games -- you can often find these games at yard
sales, thrift stores and on eBay... or look for free online versions and

Advanced Activities:

What do you call this dish?
Theme Scrabble
10,000 Dollar Pyramid
Structured Poetry

Descriptions of Advanced Activities:

“What do you call this dish?”
Make up new names for your family’s favorite dishes.  For example, try
combining just a few letters of the main ingredients to make a new word,
such as “chick-noo-p” for chicken noodle soup or "pea-but-ches" for
peanut butter sandwiches.  Or, use alliteration that describes the food,
such as “big, beautiful, bean, burritos” or “tasty, tangy, tomatoes”.  The
sillier - the better.  ;-)

Theme Scrabble
Play the regular Scrabble game, but only use words that fall into a
theme.  Choose the themes for your child’s enjoyment -- possibilities
include: cartoon world words, musical words, Star Wars words, fine arts
words, wizardry words, etc.  Allow “iffy” words if a player can justify how
they fit the theme, for instance, “carpet” is OK for a Star Wars theme,
because Princess Leia called Chewbacca a “walking carpet”.  Choosing a
theme can make it easier for a child to think of words to use – it gives a
frame of reference and brings the word pool into a more manageable

This is a board game similar to Scrabble, but tiles can be stacked on top
of existing words to change them into new words.  Upwords can be
played online

Create funny stories by filling in the blanks of an unknown storyline.  
Calls for knowledge of the parts of speech. These are small booklets that
can be found in toy stores and it can be played online.   

This is a game that requires players to think of new words to fit an
evolving criteria.  The first player begins by choosing a word (let’s use
“dish”) and saying, “I’m thinking of a word that begins with “D”.  The next
player then thinks of
their own word that begins with “D” (let’s use “dog”)
and tells everyone what the first two letters of the word are
now.  (Note
that we are now talking about a different word than the first player
chose.)  So, the second player would say, “ The second letter is “O”…
So, now the word begins with “D-O”.  The third player thinks of
their own
word that fits the new criteria.  Let’s say they think of “door”.  They would
say, “The third letter is also “O”… so now the evolving word begins with
“D-O-O”. The situation is now ripe for the fourth person to complete the
word by adding “M” or “R”.  When a word is completed, that player gets
to begin the next sequence.  Feel free to give hints to players who can’t
think of a word to use.

You can add rules to fit your child’s ability level.  Possible rules include:
1). Not allowing two letter words – for example, players cannot count “T-
O” as a completed word... play must continue;  2). Add a “doubt it”
provision for when players can’t think of any words that would fit the
current criteria.  For example, if a player says he’s thinking of a word that
begins “P-L-I” you may challenge him to prove there is such a word. (Of
course there is!  Plink or Pliocene would both work.) 3). For mature
spellers, you insist that final words have six or more letters.   

A boxed game based on an old TV game show.  Players try to get their
partner to say a given word.  Only one-word clues can be given… but
you can use your tone of voice and gestures to give hints.  For young
children, wave the one-word rule, or play as a team with them.

10,000 Dollar Pyramid
A boxed game based on an old TV game show.  Players try to get their
partner to identify a given category, by giving them a list of words that fit
the category.  Team-up with young children to help them play.

Structured Poetry
Poems that follow strict patterns help focus a child’s writing efforts.  
Following “the recipe” for a haiku or cinquain results in a complete
product in much less time than most writing projects.  Having a formula
also breaks the writing into a step-by-step process that reduces the
stress about what to write next.  It also puts the focus on the process,
rather than the words.  

Collaborate on the poem, taking turns thinking of topics, developing
lines, or coming up with ideas for endings, then you write it out, or, if your
child is willing, have them take dictation from you to write it out or type it
on the computer.

There are several types of structured poems that children typically enjoy
writing and reading.  Cinquain is a 5-line poem that is constructed from a
series of nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.  Haiku is a 3-line poem that is
constructed by syllable count.  Diamonte forms a diamond shape when
finished.  Up-and-Down Poems have a word written vertically down the
page, with related words written horizontally, as in a cross-word puzzle.
There are several online children’s poetry sites where you can find
complete instructions and examples of each type of poetry -- check out
Diner's Favorite Poetry Resources for starters.  

A good resource is a book called “
Easy Poetry Lessons that Dazzle
and Delight” by David Harrison and Bernice Cullinan. Use this book to
discuss the different types of poetry, and to get ideas. Look for other
books of children's poetry at the library -- read and enjoy together.  But
don't get too involved in what a particular poem "means" -- try to just
enjoy the sound of the words and the imagery the words bring to mind.

If these activities are too hard go back to
Word Retrieval Activities: Beginning Level

Or, go on  to Narrative Activities
Narrative Activities to Jump-start Your Child's Storytelling
and Writing Skills (Beginning Level)
(back to)
writing resources
(back to)
(back to)
visual-spatial learners
(back to)
special needs
"By words the mind is winged."
-- Aristophanes, dramatist (c. 448-385 BCE)

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.
-Roger Miller, musician (1936-1992)