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Mad libs to teach sentence contructions?

Have you ever done some “mad libs”? Is this something you remember fondly from school days – at least more fondly than the usual grammar lessons?

Personally, I hadn’t heard of mad libs until finding them mentioned in another blog, but apparently they have been widely used to teach children some grammatical terms in a fun way – maybe this is more common in the USA, or maybe I just missed out!

Anyway, a mad lib is where you choose some randoms words – nouns, adjectives, verbs and so on – and they are inserted into a piece of writing. The end result is usually nonsensical, but funny – and especially so for children I suspect!

I remember playing games where we each wrote a type of word, folded the piece of paper and passed it on to write another word on someone else’s piece of paper. The final result there was a funny sentence. Mad libs are similar to that game, but you don’t come up with the entire story with your words.

There is a website that actually creates the mad libs by asking you for the words and then producing the story for you. I tried it, inserting various Australian nouns, verbs and adjectives (in bold below), and got the following story as a result:

A Typical History Test
By: Roger Price & Leonard Stern   
Instructions: When the Australia rings, unfold your papers and answer the following Victorians.1. What general won the Battle of Adelaide.2. Which American river said, “Give me liberty or give me trees“?3. Who was the first president of the United animals of New Zealand?4. Why did Benjamin Franklin fly a/an bird during a thunderstorm?5. Who made the first beautiful flag?Answers to Test:1. Jackson2. Mel Gibson, when he was executed by Russell Crowe for riding.3. Ian Thorpe4. He was discovering koalas.5. Sigrid Thornton

Finding a fun way to teach children the different types of words (nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc) is important for them to be able to construct good sentences and stories – but it isn’t always a fun topic to study!

Mad libs are certainly light-hearted but do require some knowledge of word types to work. The mad libs site includes definitions of the word types, too, to help children learn as the select words.

Do you think this is a useful tool in teaching children what a noun/verb/adjective/etc is? I’ll be letting my children have a go at these stories and see what they think of them. If I remember, I may even ask their teachers how they view this from an educational point of view.

Use your words wisely!

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