Monday, September 14, 2009

Taboo, Taboo

Today's tip comes from brand new Literacy Network Tutor, Marjorie Matthews. In pre-service training last week she talked about her experience using the board game "Taboo" to build vocabulary and descriptive speaking skills. I asked her to write it up as a tip for you and she kindly obliged.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, "Taboo" is a word game that challenges players to guess what word is on a card that a player called the giver is holding. He or she gives clues but must not use any of taboo words also on the card. For instance, one card may have a word like tobacco but the giver would be fobidden to use the words smoke, cigarette, chew, cigar or pipe to describe it. It stimulates learners to find ways to work around a vocabulary gap, How much fun is it? Boatloads. Here's how Marjorie does it:

It had occurred to me that the game Taboo could be a fun way for my Saudi friends to learn some new words, so I took the game to their home. We did not "play" the game, but used the cards. First we talked about the meaning of the word "taboo." Then we went through some of the cards one by one. The word at the top of each card has five words underneath that are all closely related and act as clues to the meaning.

So either they would look at the "clues" and try to guess at the meaning of the word, or I would explain the meaning and they and I would discuss how the five clue words relate. Sometimes this got into culture, for example, the word tuxedo was followed by formal, prom, jacket, rent and wear, and we talked about prom (a uniquely American thing.) The word bench was followed by sit, play, judge, seat, and park.

After we played, I noticed that my learner used some of the words, which had been new words for him. He had written a story about walking by Lake Mendota, and didn't know the word bench, and replaced "wooden chairs" in his essay with benches. I think they enjoyed learning new words this way. It is always nice to try to think of new ideas and approaches to make learning fun. Pictionary cards might work too - except they have unrelated words, which don't act as clues.

Kudos and a big thank-you to Marjorie Matthews, This Week's Favorite Tutor!


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