I propose to get great words at the front of our and our students’ brains (and tongues) by participating in this fun and easy activity. The Word for That Vocabulary Activity encourage students to change the words and phrases they use every day by coming up with more precise and sophisticated vocabulary words.
Bare Naked Ladies is one of my favorite bands for their goofy, catchy song lyrics. Recently, I was listening to my son’s BNL children’s album, entitled Snacktime, and I heard the song “A Word for That.” The song is hilarious (you can listen to the sample on iTunes here) –basically, the singer is lamenting he cannot remember the word to describe a specific part of the body.
I love this song because it’s true- so often we find ourselves at a loss for the right word-why can’t all the sophisticated vocabulary we are learning be on the tip of our tongues?
1. Play the Bare Naked Ladies song (or song clip) for students and discuss the frustration everyone feels when they cannot recall the right word to use.
2. Have students fill out the left side of their “Word for That” chart with words they routinely use-at school, at home, at practice, with friends, in their writing, etc. This list should be about 15 words long 3-4 words in 4-5 different categories. You must model with your own chart, so show students what to do by considering what words you use most often-at school, at home, with friends, in your writing etc.
3. Once students have filled out the left side of the chart, have them find a vocabulary word that expresses the same idea, but with more precision or pizzazz.
In case you were wondering how I came up with my synonyms, I used the dictionary/thesaurus widget on my apple laptop to look up the old words and also perused the index of my Vocabulary Workshop book (level E). As I was perusing the index, I noticed more vocabulary words that I wanted to use in place of basic words I often say (like fake and chatty), so I added those to my list.
I actually had a great time looking up words and finding interesting synonyms—I didn’t know what a thrill it would be to rediscover all these great words to say until I did the exercise myself. Hopefully, your students will start to sit up a little straighter and feel a little smarter as they too rediscover words they had forgotten they knew or learn new words to confuse/impress their friends and family.
4. Once students fill out their charts, have them carry them around for a week or so, marking every time they use one of their new synonyms in place of an old word (don’t forget-you should play too; I will be playing along this week and report on my progress next Thursday). Have them compete for who can use new words the most and write the names of the top vocabulary victors on your board/wall for everyone to see as formidable opponents!
5. Perhaps try it a second week, and see if new competitors can defeat the old.
Considering exploiting this activity once per quarter or semester-the more students actually take ownership of their vocabulary and see how it can benefit them in everyday life, the more their words will sink in. Good luck-may you deploy your words well and not be too loquacious in the process!