October 16 is Noah Webster's birthday! Use the day to launch your students on a pursuit of sparkling word games and useful dictionaries on the Internet.
Looking for a way to pique your students' interest in the study of words? Noah Webster -- you'll remember him as the creator of the first dictionary in America -- has a birthday on October 16. It's the perfect day to engage students in some of the many excellent online activities based on words! And once students know the URLs for great word activities, those Web sites can become a vital resource in your Language Arts program.
Here's a listing of a number of Web sites with outstanding word activities!
Each week, Fake Out! presents three lists of vocabulary words put together by grade level (grades K-2, 3-5, and 6+). For example:
Does the word esparto mean
If you answered "a tough, wiry grass used in making paper," you were right!
Does the word jitney mean
"A small bus" is the correct answer!
Participants in the game also have a shot at writing fake definitions for the next week's words. A few of those phonies will actually be used in the following week's game.
Another word activity, A.Word.A.Day, provides the definition of a daily word that is generally chosen based on a weekly theme. Exploring words can enrich students' understanding and use of language as well as nurture their interest in words.
Merriam-Webster Online contains a dictionary and thesaurus as well as a number of links to sites such as Cool New Stuff, Word Game of the Day, Lighter Side of Language, and Words for the Wise.
Word Game of the Day includes
Vocabulary University gathers links to vocabulary puzzles designed to enhance development of vocabulary. Those puzzles include word puzzles where the root of a word and the meaning of the root are provided. The clue also gives the number of letters and part of speech for the key word. Based on that information, the player must spell out the key word. For example, say the root is fid, the root meaning is faith, and the key word meaning is "faithfulness to obligations and duties." What, then, is the 8-letter noun that is the key word? The answer, which the player must come up with, is fidelity.
World Wide Words has fascinating bits and pieces of information about the English language. Its Turns of Phrase index, for example, is an "archive of words and phrases that have not yet reached most dictionaries." One such word, listed on the site recently, is coopetition, a blend of cooperation and competition that businesses today use to gain advantages in the marketplace. A phrase listed in this group is "gold-collar worker," a take on "blue- and pink-collar worker." It refers to highly skilled individuals, who know a lot about several areas of their company's work, are vital to company profitability, and must be supervised in accordance with their interests.
Another section of the site is the Weird Words index. One such word, gallimaufry, dates from the 16th century and means a hodgepodge or jumble.
Challenge students by having them come up with their own Turns of Phrase or Weird Words!
Wordsmyth English Dicationary-Thesaurus is a search engine for meanings and synonyms for words. A special feature of the site is WordNet, a "database of relationships between word senses." Mainly for ninth-grade students or older because of its complexity, WordNet organizes English words into "synonym sets." Look up home, for instance, and it will be in a synonym set with other words such as dwelling and domicile. But you'll also find related words organized according to their relationships with the key word.
Hypertext Webster Gateway is an impossibility finally made possible: a word search for those who aren't perfect spellers! In this dictionary, you may type in a word, then click to select an approximate match. If you misspell the word, the dictionary server may yield a list of close matches as alternatives. This site can be a real help to all students.
I Love Learning provides a variety of hangman games for vocabulary study. Themes include weather, sports, astronomy, animals, countries, more.
The Noah Webster House Museum of West Hartford
The site's History page features A Short Summary of Noah Webster's Life, which you may wish to have students read for background information about the compiler of the first American dictionary.
Article by Sharon Cromwell
Copyright © 2008 Education World
Originally published 10/12/1998
Links last updated 07/25/2011