Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A Little Word Play

Hello out there. Here’s an idea for those few extra moments in the classroom. It’s a quick verbal exercise for elementary and secondary grades. Engage free thinking to seek connections across words. Generate streams of morphological word families. Morphological reasoning is a Metalinguistic Activity.

Pandemic. Epidemic. Hyperglutaminemic. Endemic.  

What’s the common element across these words? What is —emic all about in these words? What is -emic telling us? Something pertaining to health, a medical term.
Perhaps that line of reasoning leads to another morphological stream, for pan.

Pandemic, pandemonium, panacea, panoramic. What’s common? What is pan telling us? As a Greek word-forming element, pan means ‘all’ — in simplistic terms. Look here at Etymonline. Or go here.

And what about that naughty Pandora? How does she fit in? Or how about Pangaea?

Free thinking exercises take only moments in the classroom. Use that free minute to good effect. Make it quick and meta-interesting! Cogitate. Bring word relationships up to the surface of the mind. Stir up the waters. Take a dive, make a quick splash.  It need not be a full lesson in morphology or vocabulary. A little bit of word streaming goes a long way in terms of word consciousness and metalinguistic awareness.

We want kids to make connections when they encounter an unknown word on the street. Or — fingers crossed — in a book.

Even younger students can get into the act.  Make it a fun physical game. Perhaps begin with the timely word thank and toss a nerf ball to a child, who might respond with “Thanksgiving.” 

What else comes to mind?  Someone might shout  “thankful” —  tossing the ball to another. The game goes on. 

Or try snow. Snowflake. Snowstorm. What else?

If someone shouts out a word that perhaps doesn’t seem to exist, that’s cool. Reward for creativity! Make it a word in your classroom. Example:

Zuri, feeling metaphorical, says “snowbites!”  When prompted, she explains, “It’s when, like, when icy snowflakes blow in the wind. It feels like little bites or bee stings on my face.” (Yup. That’s a real deal.)

Owen responds to Zuri with a more concrete notion. He says, “Snowbites could mean eating snow, like when my little brother took a bite yesterday!” (Leaving aside the pros and cons of eating snow.)

Could Zuri’s word have two meanings? Sure, why not! That’s polysemy. It’s a common occurrence in language.

No wrong answers. Only associations. Only the fun of finding relationships, making connections.

Need help thinking of words? Check out the many morphology websites online. Some are listed in the Vocabulogic blog footer. Or start at Reading Rockets. They’ve posted a handy list of affixes and roots / morphemes. 

Looking ahead, think of words connected with seasonal festivities. For one holiday idea, go to Vocabulary.com’s Wordshop. Check out the word play in Happy versus Merry.

Bye for now. Best Wishes and Peace on Earth to all.

PS. Sad news. After 20 years in print and two editions, my morphology curriculum Vocabulary Through Morphemes is no longer available, except a few copies at Amazon. Maybe this type of blog post will help fill the gap. Or contact me if you want to buy it directly from me in some format.  smebbers@gmail.com 

PPS. Happy news. My publisher Voyager Sopris just produced a second edition of my interactive beginner reading series, 28 Power Readers and 37 Supercharged Readers.  Sixty-five books, in color! The Supercharged Readers series in particular has a greater focus on morphology, including five new advanced books with multiple chapters.