D: The Meaning of Words

These activities are also available in Romanianro_ro and Dutch .

Goal: learn that a written word has a meaning. A written word refers to, for example, an object. These activities help people practice looking at written words, which is necessary for learning to write.

D1: Find Your Own Name

Goal: Learning to recognize letters; learn to associate written words with the corresponding sounds.

Needed: a piece of paper for each person with his/her individual name written on it. Also, for each member of the group the same set of 3-5 items with their personal name written on them. Items might include pieces of paper (cut into various shapes – a heart, an oval, a circle, etc.), an envelope, a stone, a cup, a pencil, etc.


  1. Hide all these items in the place where you are meeting, either before group members arrive or while they are busy doing something else.
  2. Give everyone a piece of paper with their name on it. If culturally appropriate, have each person take turns showing this to the group and saying their own name aloud.
  3. Explain that you are all going on a “name hunt.” Everyone’s name has been written on different objects which have been hidden in the meeting area. Tell how many objects each person will have and what the objects are.
  4. Before starting the name hunt, explain that everyone can only take the objects with their own name. If they find someone else’s object, they must say nothing about it and leave it behind. Some people may like to go ‘hunting’ with someone; they can work together in groups of two and thus help each other.
  5. Once everyone has found all of the objects with their name on them, compliment the group. Tell them they can keep the items. Or, suggest that they leave the cup or mug in the meeting room for future meetings.

Variation: Have people make or label the objects to be hidden themselves. This way everyone can practice writing their name on three or four pieces of paper. Then divide the group in two. One half closes their eyes while the other half hides their objects. Then the first half goes looking for it; they are only allowed to pick up those things with their own name on them. When all objects have been found, the roles can be reversed.

D2: Labeling

Goal: learn to relate concepts to the written word.

Needed: pieces of cardboard or paper to use as labels with the names of things in the meeting area written on them such as a table, a chair, doors, a stove, windows, window frames or light switches. If the group still has to practice the connection between letter and sound, choose objects that all start with a different letter. If necessary, write the first letter of each word clearly in a different color, for example “table” as “table.”


  1. Show the labels and discuss what is written on them, especially if the group has little reading skills. If necessary, only put down three or four at a time. This will help prevent people from feeling frustrated and thinking: ‘I’ll never learn this!’
  2. Then have everyone help put all the labels in the right places. Depending on the group size, this can be done as a group or in small groups of two or three.
  3. This game can also be played in two teams. The first team puts three or four cards in the right place. Then the other team has to check if they did it correctly.
  4. Then the roles are switched and that team puts some labels in the right place, and the first team checks them.
  5. If it is culturally acceptable, each team can get a point for each correct label.
  6. If a ‘wrong’ label is found, have the group that made the mistake try to put it in the right place. Or have the group that discovered the mistake put it in the right place.

Variation 1: If you use the same room more often with this group, you can leave the cards for a few lessons to help the people remember the words. You can briefly review the labels with them at the beginning of another lesson to see how well they remember the words. If necessary, repeat the game.

Variation 2: Bring in items to label instead of using things that are already in the meeting area.  For example, spoons, a hammer, nails, pens, books or cups. Make a label for each object, with the name on it. Again, have group members place the correct card next to each object.

Variation 3: Once the labels are all in the right place, have the people collect them again. Then put them back yourself, but make sure you make at least two (funny?) mistakes. Let the group correct you.

D3: Guess Words

Goal: increase vocabulary.

Needed: Think of a number of words in advance that are related to each other and that you want to teach the group. Choose words that can be easily demonstrated, for example emotions like sad, happy, lonely, relieved, or surprised. You can also think of objects that people use regularly and teach them words associated with those objects. For example, if using a car, people can learn the names of car parts.

Also needed: something large to write on, such as a classroom board.


  1. Discuss the words with the group. Also write them down for everyone to see. If necessary, draw a picture for each word to make it easier for everyone to remember its meaning.
  2. Have one person choose a word without telling the others what it is. Then let him act it out play it out.
  3. The others have to guess what word it is. The player may only nod yes or no.
  4. If the word is guessed, someone else may choose and act out a word.
  5. Let everyone who wants to have a turn.

Variation: This game can also be played in two teams. Have the teams take turns acting out a word of their choice. This can be done by one or more people. The other team has to guess which word it is. If they have guessed the word, they get a point and it is their turn to act out a word.

D3 Hats

Goal: increase vocabulary; memory; creativityBackground/pedagogy:

People with a visual/spatial learning preference often learn better when they can see an object. In this game, new words will be associated with a hat and a situation. It is easier to learn and retain new words when they are learned in the situation and context where they belong. People  also learn better when they have fun. Something new is also better remembered and retained when movement is involved.

Needed: a wide variety of hats with at least one hat for each person in the group; a big sheet of paper or school board.


  1. The hats lie on a table (or other place) where everyone can see them.
  2. Explain that every hat has a story. For example, a sun visor => vacation, weather reports, sunburn/tan/red skin . . ..
  3. The first person chooses a hat, puts in on, and tells a short story about it. The story will have some new words in it. The leader writes these new words where everyone can see them.
  4. The next person puts on the same hat and repeats the story, using the new words.  Then he/she chooses the next person to tell a story. This person chooses their own hat and tells their own story.
  5. Repeat until everyone has had a turn.

Variation 1: One person pretends to be wearing one of the hats. This person acts like they would in a situation where that kind of hat would be worn. The others in the group guess which hat fits those actions.

Variation 2:  Write down the hat stories and put them in a booklet. Make this available for people to read. The group might make drawings to go with the stories. Or photos of the actual hats might be included in the booklet.

This game can easily be done online.

This game can be done with just 2 or 3 people as well as a large group.