Connecting the Dots: Learning by Categories

If you have ever watched a toddler piling his toys into stacks of vehicles, action figures, and building blocks, you are aware that humans are wired from early on to be sorters.  We categorize our years into seasons, our seasons into weather patterns, our weather patterns into cycles, levels, strengths, and even names in hurricane season.  We categorize our houses into rooms, our rooms into areas, and our areas into décor.  And if you take one look into our closets and cupboards you will find yet more proof of our sorting and grouping prowess. 

Why all this need for categorization?  The main reason is that humans learn by creating relationships between things.  From infancy on, we are connecting the dots of life by figuring out what goes together and what doesn’t. This is especially true of language-learning.  By making connections between words and ideas, and between words and pictures, we gain vocabulary.  The brain is always in “search mode” – seeking out new knowledge by making associations with old knowledge.  It is simple for us to see a picture of a nurse in front of a hospital, pushing a wheelchair, and figure out that she is somehow associated with healthcare. In the same way, it is much easier for us to remember the word strategy if we learn it in combination the words plan, tactic, and scheme.  Connections make the learning process faster and more efficient.

This grouping of knowledge by topic is the cornerstone of the learning website.  Each of the games is separated into themes, or categories that can be adapted to the player.  Whether you are a beginning reader, an English as a second language learner, or an academic, there are topics that can aid and expand your vocabulary. 

This could be especially helpful for teachers.  Whatever the grade or subject you teach, there are game categories to enhance your student’s learning of the concepts.  For science teachers, there are topics about astronomy, energy, the human body, the animal kingdom, geology, and many, many more.  Social studies teachers can use the games to augment studies about countries, geography, languages, government and civics, currencies, and any number of other subjects.  Computer and technology classes can make use of the themes of computers, programming terms, electronics, and word processing.  And language arts teachers will be thrilled to find that synonyms and antonyms, grammar, homographs, reading and writing terminology, and many other subjects are included as options.

The early education teacher will be especially pleased with the opportunities to help the youngest readers and writers fill their vocabulary banks.  The learning games on can help these fledgling students learn their colors, animals, directions, numbers, adjectives, sizes, months of the year, community, household items, and terminologies of time.  There are even grade-specific topic lists from preschool through elementary school to help build age appropriate vocabulary. 

Older learners are certainly not left out of the fun, however.  Middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults will find an incredible number of topics to “edutain” them.  Adults who are learning English as a second language will be especially pleased to find that there are learning games available to them that do not require them to work at a child’s level.  Adults of all ages and backgrounds will enjoy playing games with grown-up topics such as banking, travel, sports, hobbies, legal terminology, cooking, farming, crime, money, inventions, history, and military.  There are also categories for animal lovers, philosophers, bibliophiles, and theologians. And when a person of any age is ready to just have some fun, there are plenty of opportunities on the site.  Categories such as movies, Star Trek, shopping, Fright Night, humor, and famous personalities will fulfill the gaming desires of trivia buffs and pop-culture connoisseurs alike. 

No matter what the age or the interest, has a game and a category to fit.  Because we learn by making connections, playing the games on the site may be one of the best possible ways to build language skills and grow vocabulary.  All while having fun…what more can we ask?

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2 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    This website is of the hook 🙂

  1. August 21, 2008

    […] watch with their child and help them locate every word that fits with the theme of the show.  Making connections between words in categories is one of the key ways of building vocabulary.  They also suggest using some of […]

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