Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 4 : 2 February 2004

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.

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Copyright © 2001
M. S. Thirumalai

B. Syamalakumari


Parents, teachers, and academic administrators seem to be under an impression that there is not much to learn in a mother tongue when children begin their schooling, other than learning to read and write. They seem to assume that at the entry level itself the child learner is well equipped with her/his assets of listening that help them to communicate well to meet their requirements. Because of this wrong impression we find that the mastery of the four skills is not acquired perfectly even after they complete class X.


In many of the cases we do find that even children, who come out of the secondary stage, cannot comprehend fully a lecture given in their mother tongue, cannot express themselves clearly with correct pronunciation, cannot choose and use appropriate vocabulary, cannot read any extra text book materials with comprehension, and are unable to write without spelling mistakes let alone composing something on their own.

The attention given to the learning/teaching of other content subjects and second language is not given to mother tongue because of the mistaken notion that just as the learner acquired the listening and speaking skills at home effortlessly the reading and writing skills in the mother tongue will also be automatic, once they are introduced to the letters of the alphabet.


Mother tongue learning is unfortunately often equated with the learning and mastering the traditional formal grammar of the language. Many learners do make comments that grammar classes are boring and monotonous. The students do not realize hat what they practice by learning of formal grammar is actually a familiarization with certain labels for facts, which they already know. Teachers also do not seem to realize or recognize this important fact.

Just as the adult native speaker, children who learn the reading and writing of mother tongue in the school are also thorough with and competent in the grammatical operations of the mother tongue. What the learners to do in addition to the labeling is acquisition of certain standardized forms of expressions commonly used in their society. This means that the mother tongue teacher has the responsibility of standardizing the speech of the young learners, leveling out the "bulging and protruding" aspects of their language they acquired in the environment provided till they came to the school. This is definitely no easy task.


Another great task of the mother tongue teacher is to inculcate in the children the reading habit which will enable them not only to acquire greater information but also to assimilate the culture of their society and understand, appreciate the cultures of other societies in an effort to become citizens of the world. Reading again enables the children to develop literary sensibilities, which make them refined and humane in their approach to life.


Because of these it is necessary that we make the learning of mother tongue in schools more interesting and serious with clear objectives of culture acquisition thereby developing healthy minds. It is in this context of making mother tongue learning both an enjoyable experience and a challenging task, language games have a significant role to play.

Normally in the textbooks we include different types of exercises which the children have to work out after each lesson. By doing these, the children often get an impression that they are made to do this more for the purpose of examinations than to develop any extra interest in language learning. But well prepared language games, in addition to testing their mastery of different language items, develop in children an interest in the language matrix. The games encourage children to read further and expand their vocabulary. They relieve children from the boredom of routine types of exercises which are out rightly pedantic. These games sharpen their thinking process, systematize their analytic and interpretive abilities, all of which stimulate in bringing out better and more suitable linguistic expressions.


Language games, like other physical games, create a healthy competitive spirit. They produce better language users. These games also encourage children to go in search of extra reading materials, and reference materials such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, all of which promote healthy linguistic growth. In most of our regional languages in India, language games have been practiced by common man as well as scholars. Games such as riddles, antyaksari, aksharasloka astavadhana, assukavita are some of the examples of language games played in our languages. All these provide enough food for thought and fun and equally help the language users sharpen their language tools.


Keeping the above objectives in a moderate scale suitable to the age group, I've conducted several workshops to prepare books of language games in Indian languages, which could be used as supplementary materials for children of the age group between 8 and 13. This group is chosen because it marks a significant stage. The children at this stage would have already learned to read extra materials on their own and they are now in the process of continuing their study the high school stage in which extra reading is a must to improve their language. The language games were intended to develop the reading and writing skills.


The games were designed to take care of the following:

  1. Correction of common spelling errors committed by children.
  2. Provide reinforcement of correct spelling of different vocabulary items.
  3. Help develop an understanding of the differences in form and function of various grammatical categories.
  4. Practice of different morphological and semantic distribution of words.
  5. Correct usage of words in appropriate contexts.
  6. Help master homonyms, synonyms and antonyms.
  7. Help develop an understanding of different morphological processes and syntactic constructions.
  8. Help building sentences and discourses.
  9. Development of reading comprehension with acquisition of appropriate speed and understanding.
  10. To inculcate literary appreciation and instilling critical evaluation of literary usages by familiarizing them with idioms, similes and allegoric expressions.


The games were grouped into categories such as guessing the missing elements, matching the given items, classifying the given items, solving the riddles/problems with the help of letter/word/meaning cues. The games may start with those for letters of the alphabet, then proceed to words, sentences, and paragraphs in an orderly manner.

These books were designed to have 100 games with as many varieties as possible running to 250 pages. Those who designed the games were asked to use the language textbooks up to Class VIII as well as children's magazines, newspapers, common notices and posters, etc., as basic materials. The words and sentence patterns used in these books of language games would use these materials and not go beyond. Language games such as riddles, both in prose and verse existing in the folk tradition, were also included.


It was suggested that during the first week of the workshop the participants collect and compose as many language games as possible. At this stage the participants were advised not to worry about the repetition of words and sentences and their patters in the games designed. They were also advised to write the games without considering whether these games fell into any particular category focus such as focus on letters, words, sentences, or paragraphs. Once a number of games were designed, the writers tried to classify or modify the games designed under various categories: those focusing on teaching letters of the script, those focusing on the sounds and their combinations, those focusing on simple words, those focusing on nuances of meanings expressed by words, those focusing on sentence construction, those focusing on idiomatic, metaphorical expressions, etc. they added, deleted, or modified the games suitably based on the focus they intended for each game. Continuous discussions among the participants, and presentation in groups led to further modification of the games prepared. Finally the entire sets of games were edited and press copy written with complete answer keys as an appendix.


Given below is a list of sample games that were adopted. Each and every game is given an interesting title, specific learning objective, procedure to play the game or the instruction, and specifications for time and score.

  1. Identify the similar letters in the given group of letters.
  2. Identify the dissimilar letters in the given group of letters.
  3. Find out and write the missing letters in the series (based on point or manner of articulation).
  4. Match the letters suitably (based on point or manner of articulation or shape similarity or hand movements or frequency).
  5. Find out and write the letter (single as well as conjunct) which is repeated in the word given.
  6. Find out and write the letter which is repeated in the given words.
  7. Find out and write the letter which is substituted in the second word (single as well as conjunct).
  8. Find out and write the letters which are substituted in the given words.
  9. Find out the words which contain one common letter, two common letters, three common letters etc., and write down those letters which are repeated.
  10. Find out the word, which is missing in the series of, given words.
  11. Substitute the first or second or third letter of the given word.
  12. Make a word chain by writing a new word by adding every time a letter to the already formed word (2 letter word, 3 letter word, 4 letter word etc.).
  13. Make a word chain by substituting the first/middle/last letter of the word by another letter.
  14. Complete the word by choosing the appropriate letter out of the given choice.
  15. Complete the word by appropriately supplying the left out letter/letters.
  16. Find out the word from the cues given (interpretations or meaning given as cues with one or two letters also given in the stem).
  17. Make as many words as possible by rearranging the letters of the given words.
  18. Reorder the jumbled words and write them correctly.
  19. Write as many words as possible for different matras using the given letters.
  20. Fill up the matrix of words by using the appropriate letters.
  21. Solve the crossword puzzles.
  22. Find out who am I? (for testing the spelling using letter cues).
  23. Find out who am I using meaning cues in prose or verse.
  24. Find out who am I by matching parts of words or sentences or parts of pictures and incomplete letters/words.
  25. Find out the word which does not join the group.
  26. Find out the relationship among the words and add one, two or three more words to the chain or pairs of words.
  27. Find out names of specified items such as fruits, animals, body parts, kinship terms, festivals etc., using the given cues such as pictures, scattered letters, parts of pictures and words, broken sentences etc.
  28. Decode the message in the sentence by deleting the unwanted letters/words.
  29. Match the given proverbs with the pictures.
  30. Match the given proverbs with their meanings.
  31. Match the given idioms with the pictures.
  32. Match the given idioms with their meanings.
  33. Match the cartoons and their legends (captions).
  34. Match the correct responses to statements given.
  35. Recall and write as many words as possible for each given word.
  36. Solve the riddle within the word (such as finding the silent member in the word parliament).
  37. Solve the riddle in poetic sequence.
  38. Read the given items in single breath (tongue twisters, sequence songs, sentence chains etc.).
  39. Make sentence chains by repeating certain structures such as conditional, time adverb etc.
  40. Rearrange the words in the alphabetical order.
  41. Replace part of word with another chunk to create new word.
  42. Derive new words out of the given ones.
  43. Using the letter wheel, letter square, letter triangle etc. generate more words as per specifications.
  44. Form compound words as per specifications (by not using the grammatical label but only structural model).
  45. Change matra of each word in differing order of syllables and create a new word chains.
  46. Read the words in the reverse order to form the correct sentence.
  47. Write more words as per the model (with same suffix, repetitive letters etc.).
  48. Match the simile and allegoric expressions to given words, sentences or pictures.
  49. Match the given poetic lines suitably.
  50. Match the poem and the prose piece.
  51. Complete the paragraph by choosing suitable words from the proper places.
  52. Complete the paragraph by filling up the words appropriately.
  53. Build by sentences by addition of words.
  54. Multiple or moving slot substitution.
  55. Complete the conversation by supplying the dialogue of B in a situation where A's dialogue is given.
  56. Complete the conversation by adding few more sequences.
  57. Substitute the underlined words in the paragraph with suitable alternates.
  58. Rewrite the paragraph using the antonyms of the underlined words in the paragraph by changing the sentence patterns accordingly.
  59. Find out the suitable proverbs, idioms for the given situations.
  60. Enumerate, proverbs, idioms using the given words such as body parts, kinship terms, puranic names etc.,

The above exercises were converted into games so that the interest of the learner is sustained. Every game is given a name, learning objective, procedure to play the game, rules and regulations if any, time required to play the game and the points scored by the winner.

These books of language games may be used either by the learners themselves, or the learners may be made to play the games under the supervision of teachers or guardians. Therefore, the language used in the instructions was kept simple and direct.


B. Syamalakumari
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore-570006, India