Monday, September 5, 2011

Lexicographer's Delight


The Dictionary. Often the mere suggestion of using the dictionary sends moans of discontent throughout a classroom of students. Many people may argue that the paper dictionary is going the way of the dinosaur with the ready accessibility of search engines, online dictionaries and apps, and I do not disagree. There are, however, many skills associated with the use of the dictionary that students need to obtain in order to MOST effectively utilize the tool available to them--whether it be in paper form or preferably, the online sources available to them.

The primary purpose of a dictionary is, of course, to find definitions of words. Students often overlook (or are not made aware of) the plethora of additional purposes of a dictionary including: aiding with spelling, identifying word origins (etymology), parts of speech, multiple meanings of words, pronunciations of words, syllable identification, hyphenation information, inflected forms, variants and idioms. There are also various types of entries including compound entries, prefixes/suffices/combining forms, abbreviations and at times geographical entries and biographical entries. Phew. VERY overwhelming and VERY powerful.

The new Common Core Standards mention dictionary 6 times, pronounciation 11 times and the word reference 19 times. Students need to know the value of the dictionary.

Below are suggestions to help support the use of a 'non' 21st century tool yet blending it with the skills of a 21st century classroom.

#1. The obvious...online dictionary. Dictionary.com, wordcentral.com, dictionary.reference.com, merriam-webster.com, LookWAYup, visuwords, or simply type "Define XXX" into your google search engine.

#2. Dictionary Webquests. A quick google search found these great options: Webquest #1, Webquest #2

#3. Combine the study of context clues with a create your own dictionary of made up words. Students can model their dictionary pages after popular online dictionaries or use a web 2.0 publishing tool such as glogster, voicethread, googledocs to share their dictionaries.

#4. Practice Pronunciation! Make pronunciation fun. Use an online dictionary and display the entries on the smartboard. Allow students to attempt to pronounce words and then reward their efforts by allowing them to click the speaker. Encourage pronunciation attempts by giving pairs of students a recordable .mp3 player (I use a SanDisk Sansa) Students LOVE hearing their voice recorded and will enjoy sharing their pronunciation attempts.

#5. October 16th is dictionary day. Education World provides several great lesson ideas in celebration of Noah Webster's birthday.

The dictionary is not going away. It is an abundant effective resource. So lexicographers delight, your treasured dictionary will not soon be replaced.