Creative Fun with Anagrams

Anagrams = Ars Magna = "The Great Art"

An anagram is an rearrangement of the letters of a word. For example, the word listen shifted around can spell the word silent. This is one of the profound teaching anagrams that suggests in order to truly listen, one must be silent. Or how about an anagram of the word anagrams, which amazingly enough is Ars Magna, or "The Great Art" in Latin.

Anagrams are a very old form of recreational word play, seen as far back as the Roman empire, and likely even farther. In Victorian England, Anagrams was the name of a word play game, and in more recent years we have the familiar games Scrabble and Bananagrams. Although there are different types of anagrams, “perfect” anagrams are the ones to strive for. They are hard to discover and, therefore, most satisfying when found. The most famous anagrams are perfect because they use all of the letters and even describe or define the original word.

Using Anagrams in the Classroom

So why use anagrams in the classroom? It’s simple: anagrams are creative, fun and engaging and can be used in any subject area because they revolve around words. Teach your students what an anagram is and tell them to try anagramming their names, their friends’ names, their pets’ names and more, and you will be amazed at how engaged the students suddenly become. They will laugh as they discover humorous words hidden in various names; they will marvel as they make new and thoughtful connections; and they will begin to appreciate the patterns inherent in the language.

Famous Anagrams

schoolmaster = the classroom

listen = silent

vacation time = I am not active

dormitory = dirty room

the eyes = they see

astronomer = moon starer

a gentleman = elegant man

eleven plus two = twelve plus one

Statue of Liberty = built to stay free

naturalist = a trails nut

diplomacy = mad policy

the detectives = detect thieves

angered = enraged

backward = drawback

Earth = heart

Spandex = expands

Kyoto = Tokyo

Doctor Who = Torchwood

creative = reactive

Why use anagrams?

  • To promote critical and creative thinking across the curriculum.
  • To broaden understandings of nearly anything.
  • To practice spelling and/or vocabulary words in a fun, engaging, more visual way.
  • To encourage recreational wordplay.
  • To potentially find mnemonic devices within words or phrases.
  • To generate creative ideas within words, names, titles, and/or phrases.
  • To make connections to other subjects through words.
  • To actively engage certain students with a positive classroom role.
  • To investigate specific words in a new way besides definitions.
  • To create new ideas like anagram poetry.
  • To generate curiosity, wonder, and, interest.
  • To practice creative reading.

Playing with anagrams:

  1. Pull out prefixes and suffixes.
  2. Arrange the letters in a circle or square.
  3. Pull out small words.
  4. Use J, Q, X, and Z right away.
  5. Rearrange often.
  6. Consider alternate spellings (honor or honour).
  7. Consider alternate meanings.
  8. Consider letter pairings (Q and U).
  9. Separate vowels and consonants.
  10. Think about patterns.
  11. Connect with other languages.
  12. Use an anagram website like wordsmith.
  13. Practice and have fun!


anagrams, creative thinking, English Class, game

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