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Using the Dictionary: A Daunting Task for Many Children

Written by: Succès Scolaire

October 27, 2017

Alexa is in grade four and last year, she started checking her grammar with a dictionary. However, it takes her so long to look up words that using the dictionary is frustrating and discouraging. So, how can we help Alexa improve her dictionary skills?

Alphabetical order

Knowing the alphabet by heart is one thing; actually being able to tell which letter comes first is another. Even 10-year-olds can have trouble saying whether L comes before O. When this happens, kids will usually sing the entire Alphabet Song, which can become even more time consuming in the long run.

Help your child by providing the right tools to perfect their dictionary skills. Start with an alphabet list readily at their disposable for reference. Then, build on that by strategically adding bookmarks or post-its throughout their dictionary so they can quickly find popular words. For example, most words in the English language start the letters S, followed in decreasing order by P, C, D, M, and A.

Guide Words

At the top of every page of a dictionary are guide words; these indicate the first word you’ll find on the left page and the last word on the right page. Encourage your children to refer to these to be more efficient in their search.

Words with misleading beginnings

Finding some words in the English language can prove to be problematic because of the way their first letter is pronounced. For instance, children may think the word phantom begins with an f and will therefore search for it among other words beginning with the letters ‘fa-’. The result: kids can waste a lot of time skimming the wrong sections of their dictionaries.

To try introducing your kids to the children’s dictionary offered by Wordsmyth, or to the free online version of the Oxford Dictionary. With these tools, your kids won’t have to search through trial and error; if they write “sience” or “cience”, Wordsmyth will provide them with the right word in the “Similar Spelling” section, while the Oxford dictionary will suggest a few entries that could match their search. For instance, if they enter I-D-R-O-P-L-A-N-E and press search, the system will come up with “aeroplane”, “gyroplane” and “hydroplane”. All they have to do then is click on the word they were looking for!

Using the dictionary is no different than doing math, drawing or learning to skate: practice makes perfect. You can help your kids gain in speed and confidence by having them look up two words each day. You can even shake things up by suggesting unusual words or picking words randomly with your eyes closed!

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