Word study activities for home schooling

This pandemic has put families in the forefront for finishing out their students’ school year.  Teachers are sending ideas, updates, suggestions, even worksheets to complete.

BUT if you are looking to up the game, engage your student, and maybe even expand your own knowledge of English, here are some suggestions:

Explore word histories. If your student has content vocabulary to learn, make these words more memorable by reading about the origin. For instance:

    • Math – ZERO means “empty”
    • Social Studies – GLOBE means “to roll together or stick” (at one time maps were only flat and rolled together)
    • Science – COMET means “having long hair”
    • Art – CLAY means “sticky earth”
    • Physical Education – MUSCLE means “little mouse”
    • Language Arts – J.K. Rowling used many origins to help name her characters – Albus (white – like his beard) Dumbledore (archaic word for bumblebee – he was always humming about), Harry means “leader, ruler,” Vol de Mort means “flight of death”
    • A great resource is https://www.etymonline.com

Explore the history and origin meanings of idioms.

    • “Beat around the bush” – talking about something in a roundabout way. From 1752 when wealthy noblemen didn’t want to go into bushes themselves to hunt, so servants were sent in to beat the bushes.
    • “Put all your eggs in one basket” – risking success by counting only on one thing or idea. A proverb from the 17th century – if you gather all your eggs in one basket and drop it,  you lose all your eggs.
    • A resource that includes short, engaging videos explaining the meaning, usage, and origin of idioms is https://www.idioms.online

Have a homograph competition in your house!

Homographs are words that look the same (HOMO means “same;” GRAPH means “write”) but sound different.  For instance: The wind made the tail of the kite wind around the tree branch. He has the high jump record they will record in the school yearbook. He moped around the house because Dad said he could not buy a moped. 

How many can you think of? Try thinking of the two pronunciations of these words:

    • bow
    • dove
    • rebel
    • refuse
    • sow

Homographs can also be words that are written and spoken the same, but have two different meanings.  I’m in a jam because I spilled strawberry jam on my white shirt. I will run to the store to buy pantyhose, I have a run in this pair.

Hunt for retronyms

At one time World War I was called the Great War. But, because we had a second war, the first one had to be “back” (RETRO) “named” (NYM). Thus…World War II caused the name of the Great War to change to World War I.  Cloth diapers came to “be” when we starting having disposable diapers. Railroad cars were simply “cars” until the arrival of automobiles. Look around and see if you can discover some retronyms.

I’ll share more ideas in future posts…but have fun with your student making discoveries about the English language.

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