At a recent seminar on teaching GATE students, the seminar leader told us about a game she plays with her students. She calls it Stump the Teacher. Today, I started it with my students — with a new twist. I wrote a word on the board and asked if the students could figure out what it meant. The word was “neologism.” It means “new word.” Specifically, the creation of new words or the use of old words in new ways but that subtlety isn’t important right now.

Here’s how it went down in class today. After lunch we are always stuck waiting for the yard duty to come out so I can send the kids out (and go get my own lunch!). It ends up being a time when I am constantly checking to see if they are there yet while the kids get bored, antsy, and start acting up. Do you see where this is going?

No where good, that’s for sure.

So, today, as this happened, I wrote “neologism” on the board. My kids were instantly intrigued and tried to pronounce it. When they asked what it meant, I told them that they had to try to figure it out. Their guesses started out quite good. They got hung up on the “ism” suffix and wondered if it was related to a prism. One student noticed the “logi” part and wondered if it was related to “logic” — I assured them that it had the same root word. None of them tapped on “neo” meaning “new.” When they quit guessing seriously and got goofy (Does it mean recess?). I told them that when they figured it out (or looked it up), I would teach them a game related to the word.

Two students tried to stay during recess and look it up. Sadly, I was too hungry to let them stay in the room.

After school, a student looked it up and wrote the definition on the whiteboard.

Tomorrow, I’ll teach them the game which goes like this . . . they get to look up words in the dictionary and try to stump me with them. I need to figure out what it means from what I know about words. Very cool, eh? So, they’ll keep lists with definitions in their desks and when I draw sticks, they’ll get a chance to try to stump with a Neo-to-me-logism.

I wonder how long it will be before they are wishing it would rain and we could have indoor recess again!

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