Can You Stump This Teacher?
I made this game up when I was a teacher in the hopes of creating an interest for independent reading in my kids and also for improving their comprehension skills during independent reading. I introduced it as a contest because, if I’m honest, I knew that was the only way I was going to get their attention and initial interest. And no, I did’t feel the least bit guilty for tricking kids to read – especially when I knew that it could result in a new found love of reading!
A local organization donated a whole class set of a certain book that I thought the whole class could read on their own or at home with their parents. This was the first of many books I used to play Stump the Teacher. Here’s how I introduced the game:
- I bragged to them that I was SO smart I could read a book, understand it, and be able to answer ANY question they could throw at me. Of course they didn’t believe me, so I had to challenge them by creating a contest to see if anyone could come up with a question that I couldn’t answer…therefore stumping the teacher.
- I explained to the kids that I would assign a certain number of chapters each week and that every Friday they would get the chance to ask me any questions they wanted to see if they could try to stump me. It’s amazing how interested kids get when they think they might have the opportunity to prove you wrong. What an incentive!
- I created a “Stump the Teacher” question box out of an old tissue box wrapped with construction paper where I had written plenty of goading comments like ” I bet you can’t stump me!” and “You better think of a really difficult question!”. I left cut up strips of paper next to the box so students could write their questions and drop them in throughout the week as they thought of them.
- I encouraged my students to work together and/or get their parents to help them come up with really challenging questions. I was hoping that parents would get involved and actually read the book with their kids and discuss it so that they could come up with questions together. The idea worked with some but not all. Oh well, I tried!
- Then every Friday they would gather around me on the floor as I picked questions out of the box to read and answer aloud. They’d laugh and squeal as I rolled my eyes, yawned, or feigned disinterest as I effortlessly answered their easy detail oriented questions (who, what, where, when type questions).
This is where the game became interesting. After making comments about how easy their questions were, some kids figured out that they would really have to dig and think about better questions to ask me. One week, I had a student ask me a really insightful question about one of the characters. I made a huge deal about what a great question that was and how he almost stumped me. Sure enough, other kids started asking similar questions and it soon became a competition to see who could ask the best question. It didn’t take long for these kids to dive in and use their critical thinking skills to really analyze what was going on in the story and with the characters in order to come up with questions to try to stump me. I was really impressed by their creativity! I, of course, gave in a couple of times to the really good questions and let some kids stump me as an incentive to continue their awesome brainstorming. Warning: Be prepared for the relentless gloating!
I realize that this game is best used in a classroom setting where you can use that competition to your advantage, yet it can still be a powerful way to get your kids to improve their comprehension of a selection at home. You’d just have to tweak it a bit and make it more of a game between you and your child and/or siblings. It would be a great game to use in a reading/literature class in a homeschooling co-op! Although competition is good in this game, the real reason it works is because of the continual discussion of the book. So let the discussions and your child’s questions be your guide throughout the book…it can be so much fun!
Do any of you have any tips or games you play with your kids to get them to understand books or stories better? We’d love to hear from you and have you share so we can all learn!
Last weekend, a friend was telling me how much her three year old loves playing the Good Night Rhymes game. We talked about it as a bedtime game, but they play in the car. She started noticing that her little boy would always make a rhyme that started with the letter ‘L’. So if she says “boy” his response would be “loy”.
As I said in the original post on Good Night Rhymes, made up words are perfectly fine. The point of the game is to work on phonemic awareness. But she was wondering how she could get him to try different sounds. One approach she used was to start the game with a word that starts with an ‘L’ to stump him.
An easy variation on the game is to ask your child to rhyme the starting word using every letter of the alphabet. So if you started the game with “sit”, your child can use an alphabet chart to go down the letters to see what new words they can make. Although it doesn’t matter if the words don’t make sense, try to steer them towards words that “could be” words. For example, when you start with the letter ‘A’ for the word ‘sit’ you end up with “ait”. You can just say something like “That doesn’t sound right, let’s try the next letter. Bit, cit, dit, eit, fit, git, etc.”
This also changes the game from a phonemic awareness exercise to a phonics exercise because you are now asking your child to connect the letter of the alphabet with the sounds they make.
This engaging activity can be adapted for different ages easily and it can be a great way to get your kids to do some character analyzation (which really helps comprehension).
- Choose a character from a book or story you are currently reading or have read with your child. Tell your child that you will be playing a guessing game in which you will give them clues about a character and they will have to guess who it is.
- Once the correct character has been named, you can switch turns and have your child make you guess the next one. Having your child pick a character and thinking of clues for himself is where they will really get practice in analyzing character traits and elements of the story.
- For older kids, this type of game is great for making your child go beyond the superficial details and allowing them to think critically about the characters – especially when you challenge them to make it hard for you!
Here’s a quick and simple game you can play during your bedtime routine with your child that will help them learn to make words rhyme.
- Think of a word and tell your child that the two of you will take turns saying a word that rhymes with the given word. These words can be real or make-believe as long as they rhyme!
- When you run out of words, ask your child to think of the next word – or save it for another night!
For example: You say “free”, your child can follow with “tree”, and you can come back with “glee”…”flea, tea, me, plea, we, tree, gee, bee, nee, kee, zee, etc.” (the last three words were examples of make-believe words)
- Kids have a lot of fun with this one because they don’t have to worry about word meaning, they only have to match the ending sound. You can tell them that Dr. Seuss was an expert on making up words that rhyme. Read one of his books that night to help you guys get started with the game.
- Although this is a good bedtime activity, it can be done anytime and anywhere!
This simple activity will do wonders for your child’s oral vocabulary (which is important to build so that their reading vocabularies can grow) while working on their comprehension at the same time! You can do this with kids of all ages that can listen to and discuss a book or story.
- Prior to reading a book to your child, try to notice words that represent an easy concept for your child that you can replace with a harder, more mature word (this is really easy to do with adjectives). Choose about 3-5 words that you will focus on along with their “big word” synonym.
- Read the book as it is with/to your child. Either during or after the reading (while you’re discussing parts of the book with your child), talk about and show them how you can say certain things in a different way. For example: If a character in a book was really hungry, you can say they were famished during your discussion of the story. Talk about how the new word tells the same story, but makes it a bit more interesting!
- Here are some other examples of common words and their “big word” synonyms:
These synonyms are examples of Tier Two Words – read more about the importance of these words.
- You’ll find that the more you do this while you read (or just in conversations with your child) the more they’ll start to use these new words on their own!
This is another fun game you can play in a group or as a family in the car. Even mom and dad will be challenged with this phonemic awareness excercise.
The rules of the game are pretty simple–each person, in turn, says a word that begins with the same sound the previous person’s word ended with. Note that it is not the last letter of the previous word that matters, but the sound that is important. For instance, if mom starts off with the word “steak”, the next player must say a word that begins the /k/ sound–‘cake’, ‘climb’, and ‘kindergarten’ are all acceptable.
A variation of this game is to use words from a common category, for example “names for boys” or “things you eat”. This is also a great activity for older kids where the focus would be on building vocabulary rather then phonemic awareness.
Here’s an entertaining way to get your kids thinking about and using synonyms. Synonyms are a great way to build your child’s vocabulary because it’s easy for them to learn new words that match a concept they’re already familiar with. Here’s how to play this easy game:
- Start off by telling your child that you’re going to say a word and they have to think of another word that means the same thing. You can start off with easy words till they get the hang of it, and then go on to use some harder words.
- Sample conversations:
Parent: “I say mad, you say…”
Parent: “I say huge, you say…”
- You can swap roles and have your child start off by choosing the first word for you to respond to with a match. This will give you the chance to model the use of bigger words that are more challenging. For example: If your child says sad, you say melancholy. If your child says hungry, you say famished.
- As shown by the examples shared here, you can easily make this game as challenging or as easy as you like depending on your child’s level. Have fun helping your child expand his/her vocabulary!
This can be a fresh change to the usual vocabulary activity of “Write a sentence using the word…”. It’s important for your child to practice using newly learned words in addition to talking about them. So this activity can help your child use the word in a meaningful way which will help them internalize its meaning. It’s also a great way to work on your child’s writing skills!
- Choose 3-5 words (or more if you like) that you have chosen as vocabulary words for your child.
- Use these words to write sentence stems for your child to complete. The goal is to really make your child think about a word’s meaning so that they can complete the rest of the sentence in a way that makes sense and shows they understand its meaning.
triumphant : The gymnast felt triumphant when she…
coax: I tried to coax my sister to ride the roller coaster with me because…
shabby: The house looked shabby because…
- You can make this as challenging or as easy as you like depending on your child’s level.
This take on the classic game of Twister is a really fun way to get your kids moving while learning to read and spell words! You’ll need some sidewalk chalk and a large writable surface that’s outside (sidewalk, driveway, patio, etc.).
- Make some word cards of 2-4 letter words that you want your child to practice reading and spelling. These can be high frequency words and/or words from a story you are working on.
- Then draw a large grid of random letters (found in the words you chose) on the ground. A good size grid would be a square with 4 rows and 4 columns. You can make this bigger or smaller if you like depending on the size of your letters and how far your child’s limbs can reach! Your child will be using these letters to spell out the words with their hands and feet.
- Show your child a card, have them read it aloud (have them blend if needed or read it to them if it’s an irregular word) and then find the letters to spell it with their hands and feet. It helps if you have them read the word, spell it, say the letters as they find them on the grid, and finally call out the word when finished.
- Once they complete a word, they can then practice writing the word with chalk on the ground to make a list of all the words they were able to twist. They’ll be amazed at what they’ve accomplished!
You can also play different variations of the game depending on your child’s level of ability:
Synonyms have been shown to be an excellent way to build our vocabularies because it’s really easy to learn and attach a new word to a concept/meaning that we already know. Kids can have fun learning and adding to their vocabulary by playing this version of the classic game of memory. You can use store bought word cards or make your own out of index cards or card stock to play. Although you can use any set of random words you like (click here for word ideas), it’s also a good idea to choose words from a book or selection that you are working on with your child.
- Pick out some synonym pairs (the number will vary depending on your child’s age and reading ability – anywhere from 5 pairs for younger kids to 15 pairs for older kids) and review the words with your child. Have your child practice reading the words and take the time to discuss their meanings.
- Lay the word cards face down in rows on the floor or table.
- Have your child choose a card, read the word aloud, and try to find the word card that matches its meaning. If they find the right card they get to keep the pair. If not, they put both cards back where they were and it’s the next person’s turn.
- Continue until there are no cards left. The person with the most cards wins!
- You can make this as simple or as difficult as you like. For younger kids you can use simple words with pictures to help them with the meaning (ex: small/little, hat/cap) – harder words for older kids (ex: alone/isolated, exhausted/weary).
- This is an excellent time to introduce your kids to mature vocabulary words that can be tied to easy words that they already know – this really helps to expand their vocabulary in a rich way! Examples: sad/melancholy, friendly/amicable, mad/indignant.
- You can also change this up by making the word pairs antonyms.
This fun game will help your child learn the meanings of words from a story or book that you are working on. It also gives your kids a great chance for fluency practice if they get to read the words several times before they actually start reading the text. Or you can simply play it after a reading to reinforce the meanings.
- Choose several words from the selection you are about to read with your child (this can vary depending on your child’s age, reading ability, and/or difficulty of the text – but usually between 5-10 words).
- List the words on a white board or chart and have your child try to read them – blending them if necessary or you can read them together. Discuss the meaning of each word with your child. You can look them up together, talk about what they mean, use them in sentences, etc..
- Then tell your child that you will be playing a riddle game where they’ll have to guess which word matches your clue. They get to cross off each correct word they guess – maybe even win a treat (an m&m or extra minutes earned to spend on a favorite activity).
- For example: For the words mast, remote, and link, you can use the following riddles:
I’m tall, very strong, and you can attach sails to me.
I mean the opposite of being close or near to things or people.
If I’m missing, then you can’t keep the chain together.
Remember that you can keep this as difficult or as easy as you want depending on your child’s age and ability. Have fun with it!
This activity will really help your child learn to analyze, pay attention to details, and comprehend select stories and books while allowing them to develop and express their creativity. This can be done as a post reading activity to reinforce comprehension.
- Choose a book that your child can read independently and that he/she has read before.
- Tell your child that they are going to have to think of an alternate ending for the story. This means that they have to go through and analyze what has happened so far in order to decide what will happen to the characters and events in the story.
- You can help them out and come up with ideas together to make sure the ending will still make sense with the rest of the story. Using a graphic organizer to map out the story is a great strategy to help them organize their thoughts!
- Your child can either dictate their ideas to you or write them on their own. Reread the story together using the new ending and enjoy!
- You can make this as easy or as challenging as you like depending upon your child’s abilities – just pick a simple book or a more complex one to accomplish this.
Big books work well for this, but you can use any book with large print. Try to use a book that you’ve already read with your child and one that has a good amount of dialog in it.
- Tell your child that you’ll be reading xyz book, but that you’ll be hunting for different things this time. Write, or show them what an exclamation mark (!) and question mark (?) look like.
- Tell them that you’ll be hunting for these in the book and that they should let you know when they see one because you’re going to have to read it differently.
- Begin reading the book (maybe with less expression than you normally do) until your child lets you know that they’ve spotted one of the marks. Say “Oh, thanks – that’s an (!), that mark means that we have to read this sentence with a lot of expression. Listen to me first and then we’ll try it together.”
- Reread the sentence modeling good expression and then have them read it (or repeat after you if they can’t read yet) with you. Try to have them imitate you as much as possible so that they get into the habit of learning to change their voice when they see these marks.
- Do the same with question marks – Teach them that our voices sound different when we ask questions and that they should sound like that when we read questions too.
- This is one of those easy activities that you can do to lay a strong foundation for good reading habits and fluency. It can be done whether your child can read or not because all they have to do is practice sounding like you (a good reader)!
- Change this up for older kids (2nd grade and up) that need help with expression by skipping the “hunt” and just calling their attention to the marks when they read. Having them listen to you, reread it with you, and then again by themselves will give them the practice they need to improve their fluency.
You can play this with 2 or more people, but the more the better. So get some friends, siblings, or dad involved and have fun!
- Sit or stand with players in a circle and have something ready to toss (bean bag, ball, etc.)
- Say a word like “cat”, and toss the bag to the next person who has to say a word that rhymes like “hat”, then toss to the next person and so on. Switch to a new word when players run out.
- Sample word lists you can use: (ball, wall, tall, hall, mall, call, fall, all); ( blue, shoe, two, new, who, boo, flew, drew, etc.); (pit, bit, hit, fit, lit, mitt, sit, kit), etc.
- You can make this more challenging for older kids by making the words harder. Sample words: (plate, eight, freight, berate, date, mate, bait, gate, hate, etc.).