Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Language Games

The purpose of this blog is to summarize articles on teaching English/language arts, from kindergarten through college, published in English education journals from the past.

Topic: Language Games

Title: “Playing with the English Language.” Stanley Bank. English Journal (March 1973), 419-431; 440. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: Suggests that English teachers note the use of words in all aspects of the English program and explore their meanings, pronunciation, etc. Examples:

Have students collect different pronunciations between nouns and verbs as in “predicate,” the predicate of a sentence, and “predicate,” the verb, pronounced, “predicayte”; “progress,” the noun form and “progress’ the verb form.”

Students collect different pronunciations between places and common uses: “Nice” and “nice.” Or between places, “Cairo,” Illinois and “Cairo,” Egypt etc.

Throw out the proposition that in English there are no exact synonyms and have the students look in a thesaurus to note the slight differences in meaning among the synonyms. “Can you give two words which have the same meaning and to which you react in exactly the same way?”

Student makes up a word and its meaning. The inventor of the word must change the part of speech of the word and use it in a sentence. The other students try to guess the meaning of the word.

Comment: To most teachers and students in English class, the term “language” means grammar. In my book, Teaching English, How To…., I include a chapter on playing with language. I suggest that students become language researchers. A sample project is collecting the reasons that people are given their first names and to categorize the reasons—after a movie star, etc., and draw conclusions about why people name their children as they do. In the second project, I distributed quarters of maps of the United States and students took down names of places that interested them. They then categorized the names according to origin—Biblical, geographical features, people, etc. Again, the students try to formulate a generalization about the origin of American place names.

I point out that people love words and students should be introduced to crossword puzzles, jumbles, etc. Don’t hesitate to introduce students to books written about the history of word origins, surnames, etc. RayS.

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