Here is a short collection of word games for playing in class (many are also very suitable for playing alone or in pairs).
In each pair of words, shift only one letter from one word to the other, without rearranging the other letters, so that the new words are synonyms. For example, if the pair of words is DAM and WEPT, you can shift the P and make the synonyms DAMP and WET. Now try these:
Players take it in turns to call out numbers, counting from one upwards. In the first round, every multiple of 3 is replaced with the word Buzz, and any number where 3 also occurs must be replaced by the word Buzz (13, 31, etc.). The second round is similar, except that 7 is replaced by the word Click. A third round uses both Buzz and Click, and would sound something like this (the unsaid numbers been shown here in brackets for clarity):
Category Word Chains
First of all decide on a category: Countries, Animals, Foods, or whatever. The first player starts by choosing any word in the category, but the following players must think of a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word. Example:
One-line Tongue Twisters
Repeat each phrase a few times:
Alphabet by Numbers
The teacher calls out a number - between 1 and 26 - and the first student (or team) to call out the letter that lies in the position in the alphabet wins the point.
This classic kind of puzzle, invented by Lewis Carroll (in 1879) requires that one word be changed into another by a series of intermediate words, each with just one letter different, thereby creating a ladder.
Starting with any letter of the alphabet (though avoid the more problematic ones like X or Z), make a staircase of words, each of which has one letter more than the next one. In a given length of time, see who can get the longest staircase.
Choose any nine-letter word (even by opening up a book randomly and choosing the first nine-letter word you come across). Write the word in a three-by-three grid. From this word, make as many other words, using the letters in the grid. Words may only be formed by using letters that are next to each other, vertically, horizontally or diagonally. You can change direction while making any word. All words should have at least three letters.
Words in Letters
Say these letters to make words! For example MT is "empty" when the two letters are pronounced. (The answers are below)
Who can make the longest list of irregular plurals in 2, 3 or 5 minutes?
Some easy ones to start with:
Work out these jumbled proverbs:
It's hard enough to spell words forwards, but it's a true challenge to spell them backwards. Students or teams can think up some particularly difficult words for their opponents.
Crambo is a classic word game. One player thinks of a word, but tells the rest of the players a word it rhymes with. The other players then have to guess the original word. The player who guesses then thinks up a new word (and its rhyming clue).
Words a Minute
Player are given a minute to write down as many words they can think of that start with a given letter, or a given pair of letters. Obviously the player with the most words (or the most unique words - that is words that no one else has though of) wins.
Players have to spell words, without saying any of the vowels. Instead of saying the vowels aloud, a specific gesture should be made for each vowel (the gesture representing the sign) and the vowel sound should be mouthed.
© Nigel J. Ross, 2003