Can word games make us smarter?
Award-winning author shares three ways to teach kids language skills
and keep elderly minds sharp
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When older generations complain
about reading and writing skills among today's youth, they point
accusingly at technological advances, says award-winning author and
college teacher Daniel L. Wick.
But older generations would do well to embrace the changing
landscape of language, says Wick, whose newest book is
"An Epidemic of Epigrams or an
Avalanche of Aphorisms."
"Historically, the English language is probably the most open
major language, a testament to the different cultures that have
interacted with English speakers. Generational contributions to
culture have been an important influence," he says.
"We still use the colloquialism 'cool' from the jazz age, and
rock 'n' roll and rap lyrics continue to add words and phrases to
our vocabulary. Likewise, word-use limits such as those on Twitter
have more of us thinking about economy of language, which can be a
Rather than deny the power of culture and technology, Wick
suggests to both educators and older folks that making use of
today's trends is a great way to promote the joy and education of
"When you think about the engaging possibilities for wit, wonder
and wordplay, language today has plenty of potential to educate
expanding young minds and exercise aging brains," he says.
He offers language exercises that are fun and can help both the
young and elderly:
What are they, and is there a
difference? Wick says no. "Epigrams are aphorisms and vice
versa: brief, usually witty, occasionally profound observations
on life, love, death, philosophy, religion and virtually
everything else," he says. They tend to be thought-provoking,
truthful and funny — or all three, including this one from Wick:
"We are as good as we are compelled to be and never as bad as we
would like." Or, put a new spin on an old cliché: "She was
dressed to wound."
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Often, when asked about one's favorite music, the
real challenge is narrowing down the choices to those an
individual doesn't like — and even then there are
exceptions. Student can share their favorite lyrics, and a
second portion of the assignment would be to share their own
lyrics, in the style of their favorite genre. There are many
directions a teacher can take this, including applying a
parts-of-speech tree to a student's favorite lyrics. For older
individuals, the creative component of the task can be
stimulating — and they may even discover a previously hidden
good old crossword puzzles.
Challenging one's mind is one of the most reliable ways to
maintain our memory as we age. A challenge can include taking an
alternate route home, reading material that we aren't used to or
doing that old-fashioned brainteaser, the crossword puzzle. It's
a great way for a grandparent to participate in a mentally
stimulating activity with grandchildren, who may have never have
done a crossword puzzle. These puzzles offer clues and answers
that can be as clever as a well-written aphorism.
Daniel L. Wick is an author of international award-winning books,
articles and plays. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University
of California and has taught at the college level for more than 30
years. He and his wife live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
[Text from file received from
News and Experts]