Board and card games to boost your vocabulary
A larger vocabulary can be a confidence booster for children and make adults better communicators.
- There are many benefits to developing one's vocabulary beyond just sounding smarter.
- A stronger vocabulary can boost confidence, improve comprehension, and make you a better communicator.
- The entire family can learn and practice new words with these fun games.
Building a larger vocabulary is about much more than being able to impress people with big words. Francie Alexander, VP and chief academic officer for Scholastic Education, wrote about three reasons why a strong vocabulary is critical to reading success. Alexander writes specifically for teachers with children pre-K through 8th grade in mind, but the ideas apply for people of all ages. The first is comprehension. "Comprehension improves when you know what the words mean," says Alexander. "Since comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, you cannot overestimate the importance of vocabulary development." The second reason is communication. "Words are the currency of communication. A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing."
The third reason is a big one. "How many times have you asked your students or your own children to 'use your words'?" Alexander asks. "When children and adolescents improve their vocabulary, their academic and social confidence and competence improve, too."
And that's only scratching the surface. There are many benefits to having a larger vocabulary, from standardized testing performance to getting through a dense novel without checking a dictionary every five minutes. There are also many ways one can build their vocabulary. For this list, we chose a category that combines learning, fun, and a communal element: games. Here are six board and card games that will help the entire family boost their confidence, become better communicators, and improve their reading comprehension.
Geared toward a slightly younger demographic (ages 7 and up) but great for the entire family, this card game uses fun prompts to encourage players to exercise their brains and use their growing vocabulary. More difficult letters are worth more points, and there is no board or complicated rules to follow.
A twist on the classic single player activity, WordSearch is a 2-4 player game that features a circular board that rotates to reveal one of 464 words. Once revealed, players race to find the word and place their tiles on it first. As the game goes on, there are opportunities to remove tiles played by your opponents and replace them with your own. The player with the most tiles on the board at the end wins. The board game comes with 16 different puzzles, with the option to customize puzzles online and print them out yourself. WordSearch is rated ages 7 and up.
According to the online Scrabble FAQ, there are over 100,000 two- to eight-letter words in most recent edition of "The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary." Playing against other people (or just studying the dictionary) will teach you new words and help you improve your score. There are of course game apps that are very similar, but sitting down with family or friends around a classic Scrabble board is something that can't be replicated on a phone.
Shake it up and see how many words you can find in three minutes! The 5x5 grid with big visible letters makes it easier for players of all ages to see. The larger grid compared to standard Boggle means there are millions more possible tile arrangements, which means that you can play it for years and years.
The scoring system in Scattergories, which penalizes players who use the same word for a prompt and rewards those who provide unique responses, makes it perfect for committing new words to memory. You're learning from those around you and, if you wish to get better, paying more attention to language outside of the game so that you score higher on your next match.
All you need to know is in the name of the game. If you can guess the meaning of words like "transmogrify" and "salubrious" from a choice of three definitions you earn 1 point, but if you can define the word without help you earn double points. There are 300 cards with 700 words, as well as an additional 50 cards for younger players.
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Researchers in Mexico discover the longest underwater cave system in the world that's full of invaluable artifacts.
New research establishes an unexpected connection.
- A study provides further confirmation that a prolonged lack of sleep can result in early mortality.
- Surprisingly, the direct cause seems to be a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species in the gut produced by sleeplessness.
- When the buildup is neutralized, a normal lifespan is restored.
We don't have to tell you what it feels like when you don't get enough sleep. A night or two of that can be miserable; long-term sleeplessness is out-and-out debilitating. Though we know from personal experience that we need sleep — our cognitive, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functioning depend on it — a lack of it does more than just make you feel like you want to die. It can actually kill you, according to study of rats published in 1989. But why?
A new study answers that question, and in an unexpected way. It appears that the sleeplessness/death connection has nothing to do with the brain or nervous system as many have assumed — it happens in your gut. Equally amazing, the study's authors were able to reverse the ill effects with antioxidants.
The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.
An unexpected culprit
The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.
What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.
"We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.
"Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)
Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think
The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.
You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.
For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.
Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.
The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.
However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."
The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.
As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.
The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."
The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.
"We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.
Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."
We must rethink the "chemical imbalance" theory of mental health.
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- Side effects from SSRIs, SNRIs, and antipsychotics last longer than benzodiazepines like Valium or Prozac.
- The global antidepressant market is expected to reach $28.6 billion this year.