The Power of the Dictionary

I was reminded recently of an article in the July/August issue of Homeschool Enrichment called Open Your Dictionary! (the educational value of your most common reference book) The author, Deana Blackburn, challenges us to use the dictionary for more than just looking up the occasional word or spelling. She makes reference to the fact that so many of us are accustomed to looking up definitions and spellings on line. If you think about it, that is OK especially for those of us who grew our vocabularies before the online age.

So, do you even have a copy of a print dictionary in your home? How many? What kind? Perhaps the most compelling reason to use a print dictionary is so kids can explore other words that surround the one they are after. Or if you are like me, then you’ll take a peek at a word that catches your eye on the way to the one in question.

The author goes on to list some assignments we can give to our children using a dictionary. I think I’m going to put together some independent assignments based on these recommendations.

The other day I had E10 correct a few spelling words. I had him use the dictionary and wouldn’t you know…he started reading to me some highlighted word origins on the same page. He read three of them and was so excited by the time he was finished that he asked me if could take the dictionary to bed with him. E10 reads by flashlight for about an hour each night and this night he wanted the dictionary. Be still my heart.

R8 had to correct an assignment she did for her weekly spelling. Her spelling words looked great, but other words were in correct. We used the dictionary to straighten things out although it turns out that she is mostly careless. When I sat with her she corrected all but one of her six words without using anything. If I could just get her to put it all together at the same time…that would be something!

In addition to the Websters College Dictionary we have (both Dan and I have) in our library, I purchased this dictionary for the younger set the first semester we homeschooled.

It is a good choice for kids without being too watered down or too difficult. The recommended ages are 10-14, but we’ve been using this one for our first grades on up.

Have a long trip planned for Christmas? Take along the dictionary and make sure the electronic stuff is off. Then you have some trivia games using only our dictionary. Sound like loads of fun? The author of the article thought so. I might give this one some thought.

So, the next time your child needs to look up a word…try a print dictionary and in the meantime dream about the possibilities to expand your student’s knowledge base using this common reference item!

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  1. heather, you’re just a rockin’ mom too. I want to be like you and Michelle in NJ – all cool and doing neat stuff… I love you blog and really am encouraged by you and your “get up and go”.Love the dictionary btw!

  2. Ha!!!! CJ you are a gem. : ) I was just saying on the dc thread that I need to get my school self TOGETHER!But yes…we try a lot of cool stuff around here. I mean that’s how to get the most out of homeschooling, yes?Heather

  3. I’ll have to pull out that article. :)We’ve actually been using the dictionary during some grammar exercises this week. We have the famous 1828, a two volume Funk and Wagnalls (which I *love*) and a various assortment of children’s dictionaries. 🙂

  4. Hmmmm…never thought about it that way. I think I will unpack my dictionary (that is seldom used) and see if we can find ways to incorporate it. Great post, Heather.

  5. When my oldest son was 8 we gave him a dictionary (the same one you have pictured) for Christmas. It was one of his favorite gifts. He’s always loved words!Also, my kids have great vocabularies, and I just learned that all growing up my 15 yo has looked up words in the dictionary when he was reading and didn’t know what a word meant.

  6. Do you guys play the “dictionary” game? I think it has a real name and you can even buy it as a board game…but the way I’ve always played it you just need the dictionary, paper and pencils. One person has the dictionary, opens to a random page and finds a word that people aren’t likely to know. Then they read it out loud to the group. Everyone has to write down a definition on a piece of paper and give it to the person who chose the word. That person then reads all the defintions and the real definition (the person who chose the word should write the real definition on a piece of paper too.) Then everyone has to make a guess as to the real definition. You get a point if you guess the real definition correctly. And you get a point everytime someone guesses a defiition you made up to be the real one. Clear as mud? You then pass the dictionary to the next person so everyone has a turn picking a word. This is my all time favorite game. It always leads to craziness and laughter when we play it with family.

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