This semester I was given an extra period with each section once a month, thus once again fulfilling my primary job, not as a teacher of Word Investigation, but as a plugger of scheduling holes. I decided that we should do something different with this occasional extra period, rather than just have another regular class (if a Word Investigation class can ever be called "regular").

So, I made a new game for the classes to play in teams, called Word Match. Here's how it works:

  1. The teams are given a word that none of them are likely to know already.
  2. Each team proposes a word sum for the word.
  3. When all are agreed on the sum, each team tries to figure out what the word means.
  4. Each team may ask for the meaning of one, and only one, element of the sum, which they must then add to the word elements chart on the wall.
  5. Each team then writes their proposed preliminary definition of the word.
  6. All the proposed definitions are read aloud.
  7. If none of the teams get close enough, I give a hint, and, if necessary, another and a third.
  8. After each hint, the teams refine their definitions.
  9. First team to get it wins that round.

Usually, several teams will get it on the same round, which is fine -- it isn't really a competition, and we don't keep score, though you could if you're in a more competitive school than ours.

To give them the idea, we did a word together -- hagiography. Then, for the first set of words, all the words used the base <anim>. I think I like the idea of having all the words in one day's game share a base or affix, especially one, such as <anim> that has so many shades of meaning. The first day's words were animalcule, animadversion, animism, and pusillanimous. I got this idea from a wonderful book, Robertson's Words for a Modern Age and its related websites.

So far the kids seem to love the game, and I've been astonished at how good they are, sometimes not needing any of the hints. Two of the groups got that hagiography meant a biography of a saint almost instantly, and one quickly made the leap to a whitewashed biography right away.