Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fun Ways to Use the Dictionary

No doubt about the dictionary being a very important tool in learning. It is a tool that teaches you a lot about the structure and function of a word without a teacher. The students will learn how to find out just about anything they want to know about words: their meaning, their spelling, their syllabication, their use in sentences, their special forms, their abbreviation, their pronunciation, their spelling, and their origin (word history). Some dictionaries show the use of the words by using them in sentences (context clue).

The dictionary helps in developing the children’s vocabulary that they need in taking care of all areas in their learning. Another skill that the children gain in using the dictionary is teaching them to work independently, an important element in teaching children responsibility in their studies.

However, how to encourage the children to use them and like using them is another matter. Here are simple ways to encourage the children to enjoy using their dictionaries.
Introduce the dictionary as a friend that can help them when they need it and when they have questions about words.

First, have them own a children’s dictionary (if their age range is from 7 to 9). Encourage their parents to buy them one. It is a very good investment for their child’s learning growth. There are really great children’s dictionaries nowadays. I would recommend the children’s dictionary by Scholastic Publishing Company (ISBN is_0-590-25271-2 if you are interested), by Scotts Foresman, and by Macmillan Publishing Companies They are basic dictionaries, beautifully illustrated, the words are simple for the children to read, and yet it has all the features of a grown up dictionary, except for the pronunciation of words. These children’s dictionaries are made visually attractive to stimulate them to notice and retain interesting facts and impressions about words.

When giving an assignment for the first time involving the use of dictionary, refrain from asking the children to look up the meaning of the words in the dictionary immediately. The children need some warm up activity to do the task engagingly. Let them engage in some kind of activity first as a class. Have a game to see who can find the page first for a given word, or better still the first one who can give the guide words for given words. It is more exciting if you have a contest, in this way everybody in a team will work fast and eagerly on their dictionary. This will remove some of the anxiety a student has in using the dictionary. He will remember the fun he had in class using the dictionary and perhaps will take upon himself the challenge of how fast he can apply himself to dictionary work or future contests in the classroom.

Make sure that you discuss all the other features of a dictionary (guide words, definition, syllabication, pronunciation, special forms). Familiarize your students with all these features, and use them as a source for game contests. First, introduce the words “entry” and “entry words” (entry is another word for definition or meaning of a word and the word “entry word” is the word that they are looking for. So, if you are having a contest, you may use this in your game with dictionary. Such as, on page _____ of your dictionary, what entry word has this entry ____.

Syllabicating words is a fun activity for children to do and therefore you can use it to introduce another facet in the dictionary. This is another avenue for a fun game activity enhancing the use of the dictionary. Looking up the syllabication of words in the dictionary should be a separate activity to start the children who are just learning to use the dictionary or are having problems using the dictionary. First, as a class, have a drill game on how to syllabicate words. Then set up a contest. Give the children words to syllabicate on the blackboard. Then ask somebody to check his dictionary to see if they got it right. In this way, you are telling the children that the dictionary has the final say whether a syllabication of a word is right. It gives the children respect for the dictionary.

Don’t put everything together as one task for all these activities: looking up of the meaning of words, giving the syllabication, pronouncing the words or giving the special forms of given words. Distribute the activities one at a time, so the children really enjoy using the dictionary. One day, simply ask them to look up the syllabication of given words, on other days, the definition of given words, and then on other days, simply the pronunciation of given words.

When asking the children to find the special forms of given words, first involve the children into fun activities of finding the base words/ root words of given words. To illustrate this activity, ask the students what is the base word, for example, of the word, unpainted? (paint). Set up a game contest for this skill. Once the children have mastered identifying the root words of given words , then follow it up with some lessons on identifying the affixes of some words, such as what are the affixes of the word, “unlovable” (un and able). Only then, can you proceed to ask for the specil forms of the words.

Encourage your children to use the dictionary as often as they can. Using the dictionary will not only enrich their vocabulary and sharpen their spelling skills but will help develop their reading and writing skills.

A game to practice in using a dictionary:

Dictionary Word Bee Contest
Divide the class into two teams. Each player writes one word on a slip of paper. The player must know the meaning of the word or find its meaning in the dictionary. Place the papers in a box. The teams form lines facing each other. The first player takes a word from the opposing team’s box, reads the word aloud, gives a definition, and uses the word in a sentence. The player on the opposing team decides if the answer is acceptable. Each team may consult the dictionary to confirm if the answer is right. Teams take turns until everyone has had a word.

Alphabetize Me
Divide the class into two teams. Give each player a packet of cards. Each packet has words to alphabetize.
Packet One = dinosaur fish owl frog snake
Packet Two = clean sky worm flag beans seeds
At a given signal, each player is to arrange his word cards alphabetically. The first one to finish gets some points (the teacher decides). When all have finished each child passes his packet of cards to the next player in his team

As children become proficient a larger number of words should be used, with the second or third letter as the identifying elements

Prefixes and Affixes Quiz Bee

Divide the class into two teams.
The teacher writes on the blackboard a list of prefixes and suffixes.
A player from each team is asked to reach into a bag (with already prepared words on pieces of paper) to draw out a piece of paper and try to make a new word using any of the prefixes and suffixes listed on the board. The player who is able to form a new word gets a point. The game continues until everybody in the team gets a turn. The team with the most points is declared the winner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent recommendations, I’m a teacher in Mexico and I was seeking something that could help to encourage my pupils to use the dictionary.