Note: ThinkFun gave a copy of Last Letter to my GT class to review. However all opinions are my own – and those of my daughter and students ;)
ThinkFun always lives up to its name with its products. Over my 14 years of teaching elementary GT students, we have enjoyed and learned from a lot of ThinkFun games. As a mother of a daughter who is now 11, I can say that our family has found them to be equally educational and entertaining.
Last Letter is one of the newest games from ThinkFun, and I thought it would make a great Phun Phriday post. This simple card game can appeal to all age levels that know how to spell – or at least can identify the first and last letter of words. The rules are easy. Everyone gets 5 cards. The dealer puts down a card face-up and names something on that card. The first person to find something on one of their own cards that starts with the last letter of the word the dealer gave puts his or her card down, and the game continues in that vein until someone is out of cards.
On a day when the majority of my class was missing due to a threat to San Antonio area schools, I decided to lighten the mood by trying the game with some of my 5th graders. They loved it! They enjoyed the unique illustrations on the cards and loved the challenge of searching their vocabulary for synonyms to help them put down a card. I was vastly over-matched. While I was quite literal (if someone said, “boy” for one card, I would say, “yellow” for the next) my students were much more creative. We had a few challenges to words where students would have to explain the connection of the word to a card. For example, for the 2nd picture below, one of my students would probably have said something like, “starvation” to describe the plight of the man on the island – while I probably would have said, “shark.”
Last Letter is a great game to play as a family as it definitely broadens everyone’s vocabulary. Young and not-so-young can easily play together and learn from each other. You can also change the rules to make it more challenging for some or all of the players. For example, “no colors” or “no emotions” are two good parameters to set for older players. There are so many images packed into each card that you can play the game repeatedly and never be bored.
I thought this might be a good time of year to summarize and emphasize some of the most valuable resources I have reviewed so far. Today’s list is the last of my “Favorites” posts for 2011. Here are my Favorite Vocabulary Building Websites:
#3: Vocab Ahead – This site includes videos and a feature for teachers to create personalized lists and embed them on their websites or blogs. This site is primarily for upper level students, as it hits pretty hard on SAT vocabulary.
#2: Word Sort – You have to figure out the secret rule for classifying the words. I love that this simple game involves logical reasoning, as well as building vocabulary.
#1: VocabularySpelling City – This site allows teachers to build their own lists, offers lists that have already been created, and encourages practice on the students’ parts by playing a variety of games with the words.
I found this example on KB Connected. You can see more examples and find the link to Mr. Zetterberg’s site on her blog post. This idea could easily be modified for higher grades or more advanced students by using more challenging words or asking them to create their own books.
Word Sort is one of the many “brain games” offered by Lumosity. In this particular one, cards are revealed one at a time. Each card has a word on it, and the player must determine whether or not the card “follows the rule”. At first, the player has to randomly guess, but should soon see a pattern in the words that fall into the rule-following pile. Once the player is able to correctly classify 6 words in a row, he or she is eligible for the next level. This is a good game for practicing vocabulary and logical reasoning. It would also be a neat idea to extend it further for higher level students by asking them to create their own games with words from the curriculum.
This site, produced by Scholastic, is a nice tool to use in helping teachers to select books. It includes leveled searches based on the “Level System” your school uses. Another nifty feature is the “Book Alike” search, which allows you to look for books which are similar to certain ones the student already likes. For the latter, the teacher can even use a toggle switch to indicate whether to search for books at an easier, harder, or equivalent level to the book cited. A Book Wizard widget can be added to your website or blog for students and parents to utilize as well.
Vocab Ahead would be an appropriate site for gifted students from 3rd grade and up. English/Language Arts teachers of secondary students would also be interested in using this site. It is designed to prepare students for the SAT and ACT tests. However, anyone who is interested in advancing his or her vocabulary skills would enjoy the free features on this site. After registering, a teacher can design individualized lists of words. Students can view short videos using the words in context, practice learning them with flash cards, and take quizzes. The customized lists can be embedded into a teacher’s website or blog. In addition, students can create their own videos for words that can be uploaded to the site. For this reason, I would advise the teacher to preview any of the videos he or she chooses to add to a list.