Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: 6th grade

Stump the Teacher

Can You Stump This Teacher?

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!

Guess Who I Am

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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

Vocabulary Retells

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. Here are some other examples of common words and their “big word” synonyms:

yummy: scrumptious

silly: frivolous

friend: acquaintance

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!

The Beginning of the End–Lesson Idea #36

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.

I Say, You Say… Lesson Idea # 35

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Sample conversations:

Parent: “I say mad, you say…”

Child: “angry”

Parent: “I say huge, you say…”

Child: “enormous”

  • 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!

Idea Prompts

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!

  1. Choose 3-5  words (or more if you like) that you have chosen as vocabulary words for your child.
  2. 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.

Build-a-Word – Lesson Idea #28

This hands-on activity helps to reinforce the use of affixes (suffixes and prefixes) to help build and add to your child’s vocabulary. You’ll need some index cards or sentence strips, markers, some baggies, and a list of root words and affixes.

  1. Use a list of root words and affixes to help you make word cards – you can also pull words from the books or selections you have worked on or plan to work on with your child.
  2. Choose a different color marker to write the prefixes, roots, and suffixes onto the cards. For example prefixes can be green, roots purple, and suffixes orange. Place all of the word parts in labeled baggies.
  3. Have your child try to build as many words as they can with the word parts given. You can even have them practice their writing by making a list of all of the words they come up with. Kids love to compete with each other to see who can make the most words – so involve a sibling or friend that can also work with these words for even more fun!
  4. Sample words using prefix: out-, root: stand, suffix: -ing


Those are three words from just from one set of word parts. Imagine how many words your child can create with baggies full of word parts!

  • It’s important that your child comes up with real words that make sense! You can let them use a dictionary and/or thesaurus to check their words to make sure they’re real.
  • This is an excellent time to discuss the meanings of these word parts and how affixes can instantly change the meaning of a word. It’s a fun way to make your kids see the power of words!

Synonym Memory – Lesson Idea # 26

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Lay the word cards face down in rows on the floor or table.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Vocab Riddles – Lesson Idea #25

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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..
  3. 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).
  4. 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!

Exit This Way – Lesson Idea #16

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.

  1. Choose a book that your child can read independently and that he/she has read before.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.

Sentence Switch (Sequencing) – Lesson Idea #2

You’ll need a paragraph from a book, magazine, or article (this works best if you type up the individual sentences of a paragraph and cut them to make sentence strips).

  1. Read the chosen paragraph together aloud or have your child read it to you from the original publication.
  2. Next give your child the mixed up sentences and have them try to put them back into the correct order.
  3. Have them read it aloud to check if it is correct and makes sense.
  • You can make this activity more challenging to meet your child’s need or for older kids. You can do this by not letting your child read the original paragraph before asking them to put the sentences in correct order. Even harder: You can also take an article, cut up the paragraphs, and have your child try to put the paragraphs in order to make the article make sense. Treat this like a puzzle and they’ll love the challenge!

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