Writing Warm Ups
My co-op kids have had fun with the warm-up we often do for our homeschool writers group. Before we begin writing and critiquing, we warm up with oral word games.
Rhymes and Near Rhymes
First we go around the room simply saying a word, with the next person expected to say a rhyming word. If a rhyme won’t come to mind, a “near rhyme” is allowed, thus slightly changing the rhyme expectation for the next person in the circle.
So we may come up with a sequence like this: dog, hog, log, fog, bog, rock, sock, mock, knock, clock, rot, shot, hot, mop, lop, plop. . . .
We may change it up to also allow a change in the center vowel, so we’ll get: rock, sock, mock, knock, knick, tick, slick, soak, broke, bike, hike, like, look, took, book. . . .
Another version is when each of us must contribute a word with the same beginning sound, such as: silly, sorry, sudsy, soupy, snarky. . . . In that case, I’ll make a note that we happened to also each choose two-syllable alliterative words, getting the kids to pay attention to the rhythmic stresses that occur in each word.
For this word game, we don’t use sounds. Instead, it’s the classic “say the first word that comes into your mind” in response to the original word. This might be an opposite, the second word of a likely two-parter, or something that comes to mind in association with the word. The trick is, instead of just using word pairs like when the usual two people play this game, the players are participating in a circle, so they have to come up with a continuous chain. As we go around the room, it goes something like this:
bacon, eggs, rotten, old, new, England, Ireland, shamrock, lucky, thirteen, prime, time, minute, second, first. . . .
For Sound and Meaning
To get the kids thinking about sound and meaning or connection simultaneously, we’ll then combine the rules. We’ll go around the room and each say a word, and it can either be a rhyme, near rhyme, alliteration, or a word association with the previous word.
Then we get a series like this: puppy, guppy, fish, dish, delish, dinner, thinner, fatter, matter, mother, brother, other, wise, size, small, large, Marge, margarine, butter, bun, sun, shine, pine, tree, green, scene, play, theater, popcorn, blow horn, big horn, goat!
The Grand Finale
To raise the difficulty level, we do our last version of the game while clapping in a rhythm, expecting each of us to contribute a rhyme, alliterative word, or related word while maintaining the rhythmic clapping. It’s silly and challenging, and the clapping seems to have a a special benefit, which Laura Grace Weldon has described in her article “Clapping Games” right here on TheHomeSchoolMom blog.
In our writers group, by the time we’ve finished with the word warm-ups, the ice is broken, and the linguistic gears are well-oiled. We’re ready to settle down to read our poetry and short stories and practice offering precise and supportive critiques of what each of us has written.
I’ve played word games like this with my own children for years, especially on long car rides. We love getting those extra special rhymes, near rhymes, and word relationships floating in the air, and we delight in trying to be quick and make it sound effortless.
One of the best descriptions of this kind of word game evolving in a family comes from Sue Smith Heavenrich in her article “Word Birds” for Home Education Magazine. Sue’s family came to call their games “Word Birds.” They differ a little from the ones we’ve used at home and those we use in our writers group, but her conclusion about the games reflects my experience: “At this point, Word Birds have become a part of our life. Not only are they fun, but they also stimulate our brains, help establish new neural connections, and engage our creative side.”
What word games do you play with your children?
A speaker at homeschooling conferences, Jeanne is a poet, writer, and editor who has enjoyed teaching literature and writing to her own children and at homeschooling co-ops and writing groups.
Jeanne also does portfolio evaluations for homeschoolers in Virginia. She is a student of how learning works – at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field, and in the car to and from practice.