Relatively Speaking

by Merry DyKes

Merry is interested in how technology can help non-traditional learners construct knowledge. She is particularly interested in immersive technologies where people can interact in semi-natural ways with content to enhance their knowledge. She also has an affinity for 18th century men in wigs.

Instructional Objective The learner will be able to identify word relationships of synonyms, antonyms, homophones, past tense and first letter changes among various pairs of words, taken from curriculum vocabulary.

Learners/Context Relatively Speaking can be customized for a range of learners, from second grade elementary students to potential graduate students taking the General Record Examination, by altering the complexity of the words involved.

The purpose of this game is to allow the learner to practice identifying word relationships while expanding his or her vocabulary. The game can be played following a language arts lesson or as a study tool after class.

Rationale For some people, learning meanings of words and relationships between them can be cumbersome and unexciting. Offering Relatively Speaking as a card game is a great way to reinforce vocabulary lessons and word relationships at the same time, in a fun manner. The game incorporates aspects of competition, yet while playing, cooperation between players may be found(they can assist each other when needed). Players can also learn from others players by viewing what relationships they identify.

Rules Relatively Speaking can be played by two to four players using a special word deck of 40 playing cards and a relationship deck of 20 playing cards. The structure of the game is similar to rummy in that players must build up winning patterns of cards that form a type of relationship.

Each player is dealt five word cards and two relationship cards from the respective shuffled decks. The remaining cards in each deck are placed in the center, side by side and face down. The person to the left of the dealer starts the play. Play always passes to the left.

The object of the game is for each player to identify as many relationships as she can between pairs of word cards in her hand. The type of relationships possible are determined by the relationship cards (i.e., synonym, antonym, homophone, etc.).

If a dealt relationship card corresponds to a relationship between two word cards in the player's hand, she may place the three cards face up in front of her. The player may continue the turn, drawing two new word cards and one new relationship card and play until she cannot identify a valid relationship between the cards in her hand.

If a player does not have a pair of words that relate, she may discard one word card and one relationship card, placing them face up in their respective discard piles, and draw one new card of each.

The 'discard' piles of both the word deck and relationship deck may be recycled. If the last card of the 'new draw' pile in both decks have been drawn, the players may turn over the 'discard pile' and re-draw from that pile.

The game ends when all the word cards have been paired up with appropriate relationship cards. A relationship validation sheet is provided with the game (or can be created by the lesson planner). With this list, players can cross-check the relationships they have identified. All relationships are worth one point. However, if the learners are focusing on one type of relationship during a language session, that particular relationship may have a higher point value.

The player with the most relationships or points in the end is declared the winner.

Card Design

Deck Design A total of 40 cards make up the word deck and 20 cards make up the relationship deck. The number of the different types of relationship cards should be determined by the lesson planner. The decks are color-coded to make it easier for the player to differentiate between the type of cards. A pictorial representation is provided on the faces of all the word cards to reinforce the meaning of the word they represent.

Each word card relates to three other cards. As a brief example:

Relationship: Synonym Antonym Homophone Past Tense First Letter


Sale Bargain Sail Tale

Tale Truth Tail Sale

There Here Their Where

Here There Hear Mere

Design Process The game is based on the computer game "Word-a-mation" which presents users with two words that are related to each other through a series of other words and their relationships. For example, the player is presented with a two column screen. In the first column, five lines with words on line #1 and line #5 are shown. For this example, let's say the first word is "Sale" and the last word is "Serial". The second column contains five blank lines, which the players are supposed to fill in with the type of relationship that relates the first word with the second, the second with the third and so on (even though the words on the second and third lines have not been presented). Many times I have witnessed children play this game and encounter difficulty, for they cannot seem to think of words that are possibly related.

Relatively Speaking was initially designed to help children who play Word-a-mation practice their word relationships in order to improve their game. Ultimately, Relatively Speaking evolved into a game that could address the larger crowd of word relationship learners.

Relatively Speaking shares rules similar to Rummy in that three cards must be matched up. Two of these cards must be words and the third must be a relationship card that identifies the relationship between the two word cards.

First I thought of including the "relationship" on the word cards, but then after insight gained from class, I realized that would give the player too much information on one card. As a result, the player may not be as challenged, and may not have to 'think' as much. With the way the design worked out, players can match what they have in their hands and not be limited by a card that says, for example, 'synonym for loquacious'. This way the players are not limited to which word cards they can relate in their hands.

The name of the game was chosen from a list of five possible names (Reeling in the Words, RelWord, Can YOU Relate?, Relatively Speaking, and Word Matchers)