A Fun Way to Enhance Your Vocabulary: Marie’s Words

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Most of you know that our family really enjoys card games. They’re a great family activity, sharpen the mind, and don’t take up much space to store. For the last several weeks, we’ve been trying out a new one called Marie’s Words.

What exactly is Marie’s Words?

It’s a versatile card game created by a high school junior who was preparing for the SAT. The game uses original illustrations to convey the meanings of 550 words used in literature and on standardized tests. Each card also provides the correct pronunciations, definitions, synonyms and antonyms, and sentences structured to SAT standards. Players can learn and retain word meanings, leading to success on exams, and also improve diction for both writing and speaking.

The game is basically a box of 550 cards, each with an illustration of a word on the front, and the definition and other information on the back. The cards are hole punched so that they can be put on a ring to use as flashcards if desired. A simple instruction sheet explains two different games to play using the cards.

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The cards laid out, ready to begin a game.
An example of the back of a card.

The easiest way to play is simply to place any number of cards face-up on the table. Choose a number of cards depending on how many people are playing and how long you might want the game to last! The object of the game is to figure out the definition of the word using only the picture. So, each player in turn chooses a card and attempts to define the word. The other players decide, based on the definition on the back of the card, if the attempt was correct. If so, the player keeps the card. If not, all of the information on the back of the card is read aloud and the card is placed back on the table with the text side facing up.

Play continues around the table in this fashion until only text side cards remain, at which point they are all flipped back over to show the pictures again. Then, the game continues using those cards until no cards are left. The player with the most cards wins! The instructions also suggest variations where bonus points are given for correct antonyms, contextual usage in a sentence, or correct pronunciation. This version of the game is called the “Picture Words” game.

A second way of playing is also outlined in the instructions, called the “Marie’s Wordsmith” game. It reminds me a bit of the board game Balderdash, which our family has really enjoyed.

In this game, each player takes turns being the “Wordsmith”. The Wordsmith randomly pulls a card from the box, shows the picture to all the players, then reads all the information on the back aloud, except for the example sentence. Each player then writes a sentence on a slip of paper properly using the word and gives it to the Wordsmith.

Meanwhile, the Wordsmith copies the example sentence from the card onto his or her slip of paper. Each sentence is then read aloud. Players attempt to correctly guess which sentence is the Marie’s Words sentence. Choosing the correct sentence is worth one point, and you also earn a point for each person who chooses your sentence! Players don’t earn points on the round that they are acting as Wordsmith. Once a round is completed, the next player takes a turn as the Wordsmith. Once the agreed upon number of rounds has been completed, the player with the most points wins.

What are our thoughts?

Marie’s Words will definitely be joining our other well used card games on the shelf! We’ve really enjoyed it. The Dancer (14), Karate Kid (11), and I attempted a few rounds of “Marie’s Wordsmith” first but found that we really needed more than three players to make it challenging enough, plus it was hard to include the little guys. We switched to “Picture Words”, which allowed us to let Peanut (6) and Monkey Boy (3) sit in, and even Dad enjoyed playing a few rounds with us!

To include the younger kids, we let each one of them “help” one of us by choosing a card for us on our turn. This worked out great! It made it more challenging for us because we didn’t get to pick the card that was easiest or most familiar to us, we had to go with whichever card our “helper” chose for us, and it allowed them to participate and made them feel included.

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Monkey Boy selects a card for one of us to define.

What a fun way to enhance your vocabulary! The pictures are colorful and clever…they really help you visually connect the words with their meanings! There’s a huge variety of words included. I have to admit, I was impressed by some of the words my 11 year old correctly defined! And in the short time we’ve been playing it, I can see that the words the kids have gotten incorrect have really stuck with them. This game has definitely been a hit for us!

Marie’s Words is available at Timberdoodle for $23.99. You can also request a free catalog and browse other great language arts and homeschool products.

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Disclosure: I received Marie’s Words free of charge from Timberdoodle in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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