Welcome to our teacher-reviewed Middle School Student Learning Center!
Below, we’ve planned out daily activities to last a week. Check back next week for updated activities as well!
Middle school students should be pretty self-sufficient in terms of their learning, by now. But parental support will still be a bit necessary for some of these activities below. We’ve curated our self-guided activities for each day (listed below) to help students figure out how to navigate reference sites and learn information on their own while also balancing parental interaction to help validate their learnings and explain harder concepts.
Starting at day 1, we’ve organized 7 themed activities that have self-guided and family-fun components. We also welcome all feedback, ideas, and suggestions about these activities because we’ll be adding a new round next week!
*If the videos aren’t rendering correctly, please refresh the page!
Day 1: Learning about grammar
1. Watch these videos that will quiz you on some common grammar questions!
WATCH: Thesaurus.com Presents The Gigantic, Gratifying, Grammar Gameshow
WATCH: It's Back! Round 2 Of The Gigantic Grammar Gameshow
2. Open Thesaurus.com’s Writing Tool and answer this writing prompt: What is one thing about yourself that makes you feel proud? Why?
- Use the Grammar Checker in the Writing Tool to find places in your writing that can be corrected. See if you can figure out what is wrong. Then, have a parent check your writing to see if you caught all the grammar mistakes.
- You can search our grammar articles to help you figure out what your mistakes may be.
3. Take this quiz on punctuation to test your skills!
WATCH: This Or That: Simile vs. Metaphor
5. Watch more grammar videos to see if you can beat the contestants in the game shows.
WATCH: Can You Compete In This New Episode Of Our Grammar Gameshow?
WATCH: Who vs. Whom: Can You Answer That Plus More Grammar Questions?
Family time activities:
1. A lot of people have “grammar pet peeves.” Watch this video to see some.
WATCH: What Are Some Of The Biggest Grammar Pet Peeves?
2. Have each member of your family share out what their “grammar pet peeve” is. Write them down and put them up on your fridge or around your house to remember the grammar rule in the future.
Day 2: Learning about synonyms
1. Watch this video and see if you can find the synonyms before the contestants in the game show do!
WATCH: Can You Find The Synonyms Within This Quiz Show?
- Read this slideshow to see more “kangaroo words,” or words that contain their own synonyms.
2. Did you know slang words can have synonyms too? Read this slideshow to see if you can figure out how these slang words relate to each other and can mean similar things.
- Can you come up with more slang synonyms that we didn’t talk about in the slideshow? Browse our Slang Dictionary to find some words you think relate to each other. Write them down and share them with us on social media!
3. Some words seem like synonyms but actually have a lot of differences in their meanings. Watch these videos to see how similar-sounding words aren’t direct synonyms.
WATCH: When To Use "Charismatic" Vs. "Charming"
WATCH: What Is The Difference Between "Jail" And "Prison"?
4. Read this article on the difference between its and it’s. Then, take this quiz to see if you know the difference between these similar-sounding words: Quiz Yourself On “Its” vs. “It’s”!
5. Read about more commonly confused words here.
Family time activity:
1. Play a game: Make Your Own Funny Story!
This game is all about seeing how synonyms work and how they can often make sense when one word is used in place of another. But, when words aren’t synonyms … that’s where the confusion and laughter begin! This game allows you to put your own twist on the classic Mad Libs™.
- Pick any book off the shelf. This works especially well with stories your family is familiar with.
- Begin to read the book aloud. You can start at the beginning or any random spot.
- After reading a sentence or two, stop in the middle of the next sentence and state the part of speech of the next word. For example, “Four score and seven years ago, our – NOUN!”
- Each player has to yell out a word to replace the typical one. The sillier the better.
- Read the new sentence aloud with the replacement words. For example, “Four score and seven years ago, our cheeseburgers brought forth on this continent…”
- Continue reading the story, replacing as many words as you like to make a classic tale sillier.
Day 3: Learn a foreign language
1. Watch these two videos about words in other languages:
WATCH: These Are Some Of The Most Mispronounced International Cities And Places
WATCH: What Are The Most Fun-to-say Words In Different Languages?
2. Write down any words you didn’t know from these videos. Show your siblings or parents the words and ask them to guess what they mean and what language they are from.
3. Take these foreign language quizzes to test your skills:
- Discover The Influence Of Portuguese On English Via This Quiz!
- Learn The Spanish Words For These Common Animals!
- Don’t Be Fooled By This Quiz About Cognates!
4. Read some slideshows about slang in foreign languages.
- These Japanese Slang Terms Are “Maji” Amazing
- English Could Really Use These 10 Wunderbar German Words
Family time activity:
1. Have a movie night and turn on the subtitles in another language.
- Have each person point out a word in the other language at a very clear point in the movie (so you know what the word means in English) and try to pronounce it.
- Hint: If you put on Spanish captions, use our English to Spanish and Spanish to English translators at our sister site: Lexico.com, to see if you got them right!
Day 4: Word origins
1. Watch a fun video about a word origin you never knew:
WATCH: The Disgusting Origin Of The Word "Squirt"
2. Answer these 3 questions about squirt‘s word origin and meaning. (Hint: you can also use the definition page to help you answer!)
- Where did the word squirt come from?
- What did it originally mean?
- What does it mean now?
3. Look up the word origin in the dictionary and ask your parents to help you understand language and how its history helps explain how people throughout time created ways to communicate with each other.
4. Write about what the word origin means in Thesaurus.com’s Writing Tool. Then, make up your own word and explain how it originated from other words.
5. Download a book about word origins and read through it:
Less than one week until the release of ONCE UPON A WORD: A WORD-ORIGIN DICTIONARY FOR KIDS!
If you and your little ones love words, fun facts and history, please preorder:
— Useless Etymology (@UselessEty) February 19, 2020
6. Look through some of the Words of the Day and see if you can find the word origin section there. What does it tell you about the words?
7. Watch more funny and interesting word origin videos:
WATCH: What Is The Origin Of The Word "Bizarre"?
WATCH: The Bizarre Origin Of The Word "Melancholy"
WATCH: The Suffocating History Behind The Word "Nightmare"
Family time activities:
1. Go around and share some weird word origins at the dinner table and see who can make each other laugh the most.
- Each person can read a slide from this slideshow: Weird Word Origins That Will Make Your Family Laugh
2. Play a game: Family Words! Make a word up that originates with you!
- Using letter blocks or letter refrigerator magnets, spell out the name of a family member.
- Rearrange the letters to create a nickname for that family member. For example, Nicholas could be rearranged to spell Nachos, which is a pretty great nickname.
- Come up with as many nicknames as you can. Who knows, maybe one will stick?
Day 5: Writing
1. Practice your argumentative writing. Read this paragraph about it:
In an argumentative essay, the writer takes a stance on a debatable topic. This stance, and the claims to back it up, is the argument. An argumentative thesis statement allows the writer to take a position about a subject (e.g., the deeper meaning of a literary text, the best policy towards a social problem) and to convince readers of their stance. The body of the argumentative essay uses examples and other evidence to support the writer’s opinion.
For example: Shakespeares’s Taming of the Shrew uses humor, disguise, and social roles to criticize the lack of power women had in Elizabethan England.
Go to Thesaurus.com’s Writing Tool. Write an argumentative paragraph using these 7 argumentative words:
2. Fun writing challenge: write your own scary campfire story! Then share it with your family. (Bonus: turn off the lights and use a flashlight while you read it!)
- To learn how to write a great scary story, read this article!
Family time activity:
1. Play a game: Roll of the Dice!
This game puts a twist on the typical charades. If you have more than three players, you can divide the players into teams.
- Have each player write 2 to 3 words on individual scraps of paper or index cards. Put the words into a hat or other container.
- At the start of each turn, the player picks a word and rolls a die (you can make one if need be). If the player rolls a:
- 1, they have to give a definition of the word.
- 2, they have to use the word in a sentence.
- 3, they have to give an antonym of the word (a word that means the opposite).
- 4, they have to give a synonym of the word (a word that means the same thing).
- 5, they have to draw the word.
- 6, they have to act out the word.
- The other player(s) have to guess what the word is.
- The player who guesses the word right first gets a point.
- Hint: Check your answers on Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com!
Day 6: Career day
1. Watch this video on unique careers you may have never heard of:
WATCH: Did You Know The Names Of These Unique Careers?
2. Watch another video specifically about people who write the definitions in a dictionary: lexicographers.
WATCH: Did You Know Real People Write The Dictionary?
3. In Thesaurus.com’s Writing Tool, write a paragraph about which unique career from the videos above you might like to do when you’re older. Why?
Family time activity:
1. Watch a movie together and write down all of the careers the characters in the movie have. Ask everyone in your family what each person thinks the career means? Then, when the movie is over, look up the careers in the dictionary and see if any of you were correct!
Day 7: Word Relationships
1. Dictionary.com Treasure Hunt! We have a fun game all ready for you—with a great prize to boot!
- Follow the link to the Dictionary.com Scavenger Hunt.
- Search the dictionary (that’s us) to find the answers to all 10 clues. Hint: All these words are related to each other in some way. Can you figure it out?
- Show us your answers to all 10 clues and how all the words in the Treasure Hunt relate to each other by using the hashtag #DictionaryTreasureHunt or tagging @Dictionarycom on Twitter or Instagram to be entered into a random drawing to win a Dictionary.com shirt (they’re great).
2. Learn about some other words that are related to each other: ghost words. Watch the video below.
WATCH: What Scares A Dictionary? Ghost Words!
3. Read this slideshow about more ghost words. Then, write your favorite ghost word down on a piece of paper (with its definition) and teach it to your family!
Family time activity:
1. Play a game: Exquisite Corpse!
This is a classic party game said to be invented by Surrealists in the 1920s. It’s a great way to be creative and work together.
- Decide what you’re going to write: a poem, a comedy, a romance? You can even use a writing prompt like one of the many available from Thesaurus.com.
- Decide on a structure. If you are writing a poem, you may want every line to be: Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun. If you are writing a story, decide on the names of the characters.
- On a piece of paper, the first player writes the first line or sentence of the story. Then, they fold over the paper so the other player can’t see.
- The next player writes the next line, and folds over the paper or covers it with another piece of paper.
- Continue passing the paper around the players until you reach the end of the paper or poem.
- Open up your exquisite corpse and read aloud your creative work.