Invent new words

Kids are the greatest learners and imagineers. And it’s important to get them to learn language and the importance of words and sounds. They are at the stage where they have a basic vocabulary, but need to improve and expand it if they are going to be eloquent and communicative in the future.

This is a fun and easy invention idea. And there’s a didactic element as well. What you should do to prepare is get a list of words that you think the kids should be learning based on their age and grade level. Preparing that list is the ‘serious’ part of the process. You are going to disperse this serious list in between the kids’ inventiveness of new words (neologisms is in fact what new words are called).

So tell the kids that they are all going to invent new words as well as the meanings of those words. There are basic ground rules that they should be aware of:

Firstly: syllables are important. Give them a quick and interactive lesson in what syllables are and how to break up words. Tell the kids that they need to be able to tell you how many syllables there are in the words that they create (so they start understanding the importance of rhythms in words).

Secondly: every word must be paired with at least one meaning. Again this can be a lesson in itself, but you can explain to kids how words with the same sound sometimes have different meanings (homonyms). If the kids are quite young, you don’t need to be so detailed, you can just mention that they will need to invent the meaning of the words they create.

Thirdly: don’t forget the didactic element – there’s a meaning to this exercise – it’s to teach the kids real words.

So it’s quite simple really – get the kids to invent the words and their meanings, and get them to recite this to others (if possible). Even though nonsensical sounds may come back and extremely inventive meanings for those sounds, remember that all words were once ‘nonsensical’ to us once. Every few words, tell the kids that you are going to teach them a ‘real’ word that they must pay very special attention to. Make sure that you work this exercise around the attention spans of the kids, or they may switch off when you start teaching the ‘real’ words.

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