During Round Robin 3, we challenged our Triathletes to brainstorm new meanings for familiar acronyms. There is only 10 minutes allowed for any Mind Sprint, so we could only offer a few phrases during the challenge. As you get ready for the Regional competition on March 9, we wanted to offer another chance to play this game, as well as some ways to interact with acronyms that we couldn’t do in the short time within a Mind Sprint.
Objective: To use divergent thinking even when seeing familiar patterns.
Conducting the enrichment: An activity for one or more people. Parents and coaches can play along with the students, so don’t be shy! You will also need some way to record your answers.
An acronym is a series of letters that represent a phrase. Your challenge will be to brainstorm acronyms we use in our daily lives, then come up with new phrases to fit them.
Take out some scratch paper and a writing utensil. You could use a word processor if you don’t have any paper, but we recommend writing by hand for brainstorming to help engage your brain on a more tactile level.
Divide your paper into four parts, and label each section 2-5. In these areas, you will record acronyms with the corresponding number of letters. If you think of any that are six letters or longer, record them in the “5” section.
Set a timer for two minutes. When your time begins, record as many acronyms as you can, and put them into the different sections of your page. Try to think of at least one acronym for each of your numbered sections. You will use these acronyms for Part 2.
If you are doing this activity with multiple students, you can make it a friendly competition. After the time is up, compare your lists, and award 2 points for each 2-letter answer, 3 points for each 3-letter answer, etc. When the scores are compiled, take a look at the different techniques other students used for getting their scores. Were there any strategies that people used to generate more words that others could use in the future? Did it matter how long the words really were? Or was quantity of answers vs. quantity of letters a better strategy?
Once you have a list of acronyms, it’s time for a new piece of paper. Your next task will be to take this list and brainstorm new phrases that fit the pattern of letters.
Acronyms are usually made up of the first letters in each word of the phrase, but sometimes little words are left out, such as when the United States of America is abbreviated as USA. You may include linking words in your answers that hold the phrase together but don’t use up a letter. Take a moment to add the phrases for each of your acronyms to your list. If you aren’t certain exactly what it stands for, double check on the internet or ask the other students who are playing the game to reach a consensus.
To make things a little more challenging, there is one condition of your new acronyms. You may not use any of the words in the original phrase in your answers. So for LOL, you couldn’t use the words “laugh,” “out,” or “loud,” but you could say Librarians On Ladders or Leather Over Lace.
If you are playing alone, set a new timer for 30 seconds. Choose any acronym from your list, and use the 30 seconds to come up with new phrases. Longer phrases offer a bigger challenge, so you may want to start with 2- or 3-letter acronyms to begin. Repeat the process at least five times with different acronyms. After you’ve done a few shorter words, move on to longer ones.
If you are playing as a group, you could follow the instructions above and compare your answers. Alternatively, you could take turns using acronyms from each other’s lists and do the brainstorming as a group. It can be really fun to do this as a verbal activity rather than keeping it all on paper, but you may also want to assign one person to record all of the different answers.
Just for Fun
Choose one of more of your favorite new phrases and create an illustration or logo to go along with it.
If you want to share your lists, experiences, or illustrations, we’d love to post them here on the website! You can email your material to Alison@USAcademicTriathlon.com.