Can word games make us smarter?

Published: Monday, February 3, 2014 at 06:15 PM.

•Explore the wealth of possibilities with aphorisms/epigrams. What are they, and is there a difference? Not according to Wick. “Epigrams are aphorisms and vice versa: brief, usually witty, occasionally profound observations on life, love, death, philosophy, religion and virtually everything else,” he said. They tend to be thought-provoking, truthful and funny – or all three, including 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.”

•Assign lyric writing. 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. A student can share his or her favorite lyrics, and a second portion of the assignment would be to share his or her 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 talent!

•Bringing the generations together: 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 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 seen a crossword puzzle. These puzzles offer clues and answers that can be as clever as a well-written aphorism.

Daniel L. Wick is an international award-winning author of 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. 



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