Slice of Life Tuesday: Word Play

Hello, world. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’ll chart that up to the relative whomping that April often has for me, dust myself off, and get back with it.

I’ll also say this: my One Little Word? Shift? Boy oh boy, has that come in handy. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks. I’ve done a lot of thinking, and I’ve actually done a LOT of writing. Just…not…here.

And some of that learning, thinking, and writing will make its way to this platform, but it’s still taking its time to percolate.

In the meantime, I did an exercise with my fifth graders that I haven’t done for several years now, but it’s one of my favorites. It ties up identity and language and grammar and fun, and it wraps them all together in one big bow.

We start by asking: what is our essence? What makes us, US? What sums up who we are and what we’re about?

Then we examine various suffixes that create abstract nouns:




After that, it’s time for word play. We say our own name out loud with each of these suffixes, altering for vowels, consonants, or pronunciation as needed. Which one feels best? Friends, I won’t lie. This part is FUN to watch! Almost as fun as…

Our last part, in which I ask each kid to send me an email with their new word, along with its dictionary definition. All of them start with “The quality of…”

For the record, I shared my own definition. Mrs. Levinitude: The quality of being fearlessly yourself and maybe a bit geeky and weird.

Boy, did they deliver! I won’t give you the words themselves because…names. BUT. Check out these dictionary definitions:

  • The quality of entertaining people and making them want to watch you
  • The quality of not being afraid of doing crazy things, being different and owning it and being very good at winning arguments
  • The quality of being funny with no smarts at times or all smarts and no funny at different times 
  • The quality of being short but mighty
  • The quality of being a math-lover, a reader and an awesome friend
  • The quality of being silly but serious too, being smart and funny (witty) and cool (and being sneakily weird some of the time)
  • The quality of loving Kirby and the preference of him over Lucas the Spider and much more
  • The quality of being athletic
  • The quality of using sarcastic humor when you speak, Like in stand up comedy!
  • The ability to be weird and be proud of it
  • The quality of being a little shy but sometimes brave (especially with familiar people)

Oh, man. My cheeks still hurt from smiling so much.

Now. I, for one, would love to know how YOU would “nounify” yourself, if you could. And…if you happen to use this with your kids, I hope it brings you – and them! – just as much joy.

Many thanks, as always, to the Slice of Life community for being a source of inspiration and a great landing place for all things creative.

Published by Lainie Levin

Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate

16 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Word Play

  1. Love this Lainie! It really celebrates words and identity! I will definitely keep it in mind if I ever have a group of students again! Such a great word-nerd lesson! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! Because if you can count on me for anything, it’s my eagerness to do ALL things word-nerdy. =)))

  2. What a great way for students to reflect on who they are and what makes them unique. If I were still teaching I would definitely try this with my students and maybe even have them write a short story demonstrating their special quality.

    1. I like the idea of a short story!

      Actually, part of the 4th grade curriculum is for them to write a personification poem of an abstract idea. Would be cool to follow that up the following year with the same, but as their own identity!

  3. This is the best! I can’t wait to try this with kids. I love how this is a creative combination of word work and identity! Thank you for sharing this … I am now going to spend all night trying to nounify Ona…

    1. Hmm. I can’t wait to see where that takes you. I look forward to your Onaification of the comment section!

  4. This is an amazing lesson and SO powerful. I cant wait to try this with my grad students!

  5. Lainie! I love this so much. Wow, how much would I have loved to have a 5th grade teacher even a tiny bit like you. What a difference that would have made in my life. So, I’m going with …

    Stacieation, the quality of taking on many too many projects and challenges and still trying to find time to take on a few more!

  6. It is always great to read your words, Lainie; I love how you revisited and acknowledged your OLW “shift” – I can so relate. Most of all: LOVE this exercise! What a great way to teach word meanings/suffixes – talk about making learning relevant – and to spark creativity alongside self-awareness. The kid’s excitement is palpable. Mrs. Levintude – perfect! I treasure Mrs. Levintude! And: Word nerds rule!

    Ok, so I have to give it a shot…


    The quality of maintaining a quiet inner realm despite the world’s clamor, where one’s thoughts are free to be one’s own; typically achieved through experiences with reading, writing, nature, and awe.

    -thank you!

  7. Ha! Do I get extra credit for kinda having done this assignment a dozen years before you even asked? Say what? You ask. So glad you did. It’s all in my blog’s masthead dahlin’ (more or less). “Raivenne-lations: (the moment of epiphany when you realize) Doing what you like is freedom; liking what you do is happiness.”

    Big. Cheesy. Grin.

  8. What a brilliant lesson! It is multilayered, rich, and meaningful to students. They have a vested interest in nounifying their name.
    I haven’t taught third graders abstract nouns because it’d be too complex for them. This lesson might be a way in . . .

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