Thursday, 12 December 2013

Of lateral thinking & playing scrabble

End of game 'aid de memoir'
I think crosswords and games like scrabble are especially difficult for learners of languages which use a different script/non-latin - it is harder to 'see' words and manipulate letters around as abstracts in the hope of finding something familiar. This particularly so when one or more of the letters you need 'isn't there' but is instead 'hidden' on the board already. I do not have any proof or research to back me up (help!), but a lot of observation!

So, I find my role is quite an active one with younger or lower level learners; not much fun gawping at seven letters when your mind is blank. Very much the prompter - asking questions to guide them to a word eg "Think of a number" or "What is the past tense of ____?", "Where do you stay if you go hiking?" or "Finish this set of words - bass, tenor, soprano, ____ " and of course trying to avoid a run away winner. A practical aspect is that you will avoid 3-letter-word syndrome that otherwise clogs up the board!

Teams work better but need a time limit - and the 'lesson' needs to have a follow up (don't just tip the letters back in the box at the end!), for example writing x number of sentences using words from the game, or a spelling test or pop quiz at the start of next class. Some students are natural 'collectors' of vocabulary & will take notes - mine need constantly reminding! 
Other hints for players:
  • opposites
  • plurals (add an 's' to an existing word that is also in your new word)
  • prefixes & suffixes
  • write possible answers on the board phonetically
  • pictionary clues 
  • page number in text books or readers
  • I Spy
  • word transformation (eg give the noun when they need the adjective form etc)
  • what's your suggestion, reader?
I'd say in our class today we were more engaged and enervated than usual - cold, wet December night near the end of term - and yet we did not waste our time just playing a game!