Thursday, January 13, 2011

Exploring the World of Words

I have always been fascinated by dictionaries, though at times they are daunting.  There are times though when I have looked up a word only to be totally confused by the definition.  The definitions seem to be in a different language making me feel dumb because I still don’t get it.

As a teacher I believe that expanding a students vocabulary is important to my students success in school as well as life.  I am always looking for better ways to interest my students in vocabulary.  Imagine my delight as I read Joanne Troutner’s article “Infographics Defined” (Teacher/Librarian: the Journal for School Library Professionals, December 2010) and many great websites. 

My favorite is Weboword.  It illustrates one word a day with whimsical drawings.  It explains words visually. It makes learning vocabulary fun, its like reading the funny papers.   I have used the book Vocabulary Cartoons by Sam, Max, and Bryan Burchers in the past to teach some words.  Weboword  is based on a similar concept you can subscribe to have a daily word sent to you via email.   

Ideas for integrating it into the classroom:  

After showing students a number of samples letting them design their own illustrations/cartoon to depict the meaning.  This helps them anchor their own learning, providing a different way to connect and remember their vocabulary words.

In the article “Bring Back the Joy” by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson (Teacher/Librarian, Dec 2010) they talked about a Visual Dictionary by Merriam-Webster.   What a delightful concept – pictures to clarify the meaning.  I am sure many of my students will be captured by this way of looking up words. 

VocabAhead – uses video to develop word understanding.  There is a teacher’s section  that offers suggestions and support for using the site in the classroom.  They also encourage classes to make their own videos to share.

My own favorite is the Longman online dictionary.  This dictionary is also available in print format.  The Longman dictionary was developed for English learners and uses contemporary English.  My students like this dictionary.  The definitions are so much more understandable.

Exploring words should be an adventure that opens doors instead of a wall that keeps people out.  Here’s to exploring a brave new world.

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