Friday, April 19, 2013

Using the Dictionary

using a dictionary and guide words

Kal-El is using our dictionary and an NAMC worksheet to look up words in the dictionary.  When he finds them he records the page number and the guide words from that page on the worksheet.

You may remember I bound all of the NAMC research skills pages (from their lower elementary blackline masters) into a book for Kal-El.  you can read the NAMC's thoughts on worksheets on their blog in this post "Worksheets and Workbooks in the Montessori Environment."

After trying out five or six children's dictionaries from the library, the one that the boys fell in love with was the Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary.

Another work that he did from the NAMC pages was one that provides the guide words and three additional words.  The task was to find the one additional word that alphabetically falls between the two guide words.  Kal-El did this on the worksheets but it would more easily be done with cards at this level.  I'll probably make him some cards for additional practice.  It should be fun because I can choose words that tie strongly into his current interests.


  1. I really love this idea of how you bind the books. I have been putting off purchasing a binder system for way too long now, and everytime I see one of your booklets I want to just send somebody to go buy it for me! I can see it is becoming more of a must have now.

    All of your latest postings have been beautifully written and inspiring, especially for me since I have reached the burned out mode, which leads to everything being done in a short cut way:(

    On a good note most of my burned out symptoms have nothing really to do with homeschooling.

    I really appreciate you sharing all that your family does and it does a momma good to read your blog!

    I like the new layout of the blog, your pictures look so awesome.

  2. That dictionary is one of our favorites - we don't own it, but one of the libraries we visit has it (and I've seen it in schools). :)

    (I need to find a photo I have my then-2-year-old "reading" an adult dictionary.... you've inspired to look again for it!)

    I used any and all of our card material for alphabetizing - my primary albums specifically mention the puzzle word sets, but those get boring (for me! not the kids! ;) ) so we've taken the words from the 3 part cards, word study, phonetic object boxes, whatever (it was mostly primary materials we used because that is when I used them with my son; with other children at any age, I've just pulled whatever we have available - even flash cards designed for other purposes - the co-op children LOVED alphabetizing our state flash cards and quizzing each other to see how many states for each letter ;) ).

    Just an idea to save you some time making some new cards, perhaps? ;)

  3. I love your research workbook! The work would be perfect for my son- do you know if I can purchase sections of NAMC materials or any idea of where I could find similar worksheets? I really like the new layout :) I received a binding machine when my dad closed his office and I love any excuse to use it! Such a fun tool!

  4. Saree,

    The smallest chunks you can buy the NAMC blackline masters in is by album. The blackline masters for the language album are $72. Ouch.

    If you look for "dictionary skills" online you'll find similar things. For example:

    Some are free and some are for members only. I think it is helpful to have a membership at ONE of the teacher worksheet websites (it would be easy to go crazy and join them all). My membership is at Enchanted Learning. However, they don't happen to have anything similar to the NAMC sheets.

    1. You are so inspiring! Thank you!! I am also a member at Enchanted Learning. I appreciate the dictionary skills link, thank you!

  5. I'm glad everyone seems to like the new layout! It started because I was solving a small problem, like a loose thread, and once I started pulling the whole thing came apart. I am glad to not be reading white text on a black background anymore. When I chose the old layout it was because I needed three columns and at the time it was the only template that offered that. Now there are more choices.

  6. Jessica,

    Those a great ideas. I'll have to take a look. He's been doing some of that on his own. I gave him some adjective work the other day and he alphabetized all the adjective cards before he did the work. There's been a lot of that.

    This particular NAMC worksheet was pretty hard. The guide words would be "pay" and "peanut" and the three words to choose from would be "poor", "pail", and "peace" which had him looking pretty far into the word to determine alphabetical order. I want to make sure he has some extra practice at that level and I don't know if we will find that on accident or not.

  7. DM,

    You have good reason to be burned out. I imagine that opening a business must be HARD work!

    I was thrilled to find such an inexpensive binder. They weren't always available at that price. Thanks for the pats on the back :) I get burned out sometimes to and think about stopping the blogging and it helps to hear some kind words.

  8. Your blog is an inspiration to many, me one of those people! I love your ideas and they all transfer to the classroom.

    We also use those dictionaries in our classroom. The orange and purple. Purple is a little more advanced.

    We start our children with Alphabetizing cards. They progressively get harder. I have not seen any dictionary work for the 1st levels. The second and third have lots of dictionary work.

    One of the works is matching word cards to sentence cards. Also part of speech. All of the sentences are on the same topic. So this is vocabulary and dictionary work.

    The other is looking up a set number of words from a list, writing a sentence and part of speech.

    We also have internet research skills. Looking up information on the computer like Comma Work. Looking up the dates of certain things like someone's birthday or the city and state of where Disney World is located.

  9. I was trying to remember how my son mastered the skills for looking far into the words for specific alphabetic order... in classes it is easier because of the older children will show the younger children; and it just "comes up more often". I finally gave up wracking my brain and just asked him - he said, "Because I needed to know how to do it to find the words you told me to find!" oh yeah... I remember. Every time he asked me how to spell a word for quite a while there, I told him to look it up in the dictionary until he found it, spelling the best he could (and saying it out loud so I could hear him); or when he was looking for a particular word to better understand its meaning (a fascination of his for a few months) - he had to figure out which two words it was between on the various pages.

    So for him, it was built-in to his experiences, which worked for us - he also loves encyclopedia studies and uses a LOT of alphabetic resources. I think if I had to make a material for such a skill because he needed more practice, I would make 3-5 sets starting with different letters and probably open the dictionary to select the words from the same page ;) (I'm cheap like that sometimes ;) ). I think for most children that is enough, when coupled with consistent use of alphabetized ideas. But now I'll be more observant on this one to see what more I discover ;)

  10. Glad you guys finally found a good dictionary. We did search for a while before we settled on ours. Seems like you did not like our choice!

    This new layout is so easy on the eyes, thanks!

    Speaking about burn out, do you see that we haven't updated our blog for a while now? I will probably in a week or two, but meanwhile we have been busy with a lot of outside activities and zero motivation from my end to update the blog. Glad you keep blogging though!

  11. MttP,

    I LIKED the Urdang. I really tried to talk Kal-El into it. The problem was that we still had the MW from the library when the Urdang finally arrived. There are a couple of things that Kal-El likes about it better. One thing is that down the outside edge of every page it lists the full alphabet vertically with the letter you are currently on highlighted. He likes to be able to scan up and down to find where he needs to go rather than recite the alphabet over and over (not that that is bad for him!). He is also drawn to the fact that the pictures are photographs in the MW and they are drawings in the Urdang. Also, the Urdang has 500 pictures and the MW has 3000. He likes the pictures.

    There are a couple of things I like better about the Urdang. First of all, the size. It is a nice manageable size (probably because it doesn't have 3000 pictures in it) Secondly, the Urdang gives ONE listing for each word. The MW gives a separate listing for each part of speech. So in the MW it becomes a matter of not just finding the word you need but also the right part of speech. You have to do that in the Urdang anyway, but it is easier for Kal-El to read completely the wrong definition in the MW.

    1. I can see how the alphabet list would help my daughter. I had her make a quick bookmark to keep with the dictionary that she could use. I need to check out the MW from our library to check it out.

  12. Jessica,

    Kal-El is looking up a lot of words in the dictionary on his own and loves it. And, you're right, that does practice all of these skills without making "work." However, much like reading involves synthesizing multiple skills so does looking things up in the dictionary. I felt like Montessori broke the reading down into steps for logical reasons and it makes sense to break the dictionary skills down into logical steps. Like all things, it probably depends on the kids. Some kids need all those math materials and some kids synthesize fast and breeze right through and skip some. Kal-El CAN find a word on his own, but it is long, frustrating, and he almost always asks for help. On the other hand, the specific tasks I've been giving him at different ability levels have made him really happy and he is enjoying the success. He had time to enjoy just finding the right section for a specific letter of the alphabet, say C, without feeling then the pressure to also find the CR's only to discover there were pages and pages of CR's, find the CRI's only to discover there were multiple pages of CRI's and he needed to find the CRIP's, etc.,

  13. Jessica,

    Another thing... I can NOT wrap my mind around teaching the kids to look up a word they DON'T know how to spell in the dictionary. It just seems mean at this age. It is hard enough to find a word they DO know how to spell. Kal-El spells nearly every word wrong at this point. So, NONE of the words he wants to find are in there spelled as he wishes. So he painfully would go through the steps I mentioned above only to not find it. In order to look up a word you don't know how to spell you have to be at a level at which you can make several (much BETTER) educated guesses at how to spell the word and see which you can find...or at least get close enough to stumble upon it. For MY kid at least, this doesn't feel like a first grade skill.

    Would LOVE some advice on how to teach that when the time comes.

  14. You're on the right path :) I hope I don't sound like I'm saying you're doing anything wrong - you're doing great :) As you said, some children need more break-down that is obvious; others can breeze through, or in my son's case in this area, it seems it was broken-down into baby steps, but so gradual and non-obvious (even to me! ;) ).

    Between personality, age and experience - my son LOVES that challenge of looking for a word - like a treasure hunt for him; this past year, several of my co-op children were NOT into it at all, until Legoboy (I started to type his real name there - how to keep it straight so well? ;) ) pulled them into it, by sharing with them what works for him. That's where the classroom dynamics come in - they can talk to each other about strategies and what works for each of them, and learn from each other in a way that we adults can never enter. (this part makes me sad ;) ).

    I think we did do things in stages, but it was so natural and gradual that I didn't notice; and then in the co-op it feels more "artificial" only because we're do part-time.

    I started by spelling things for him, or directing him to a card or something that had it written. But all of his use with the movable alphabet and patterning with the reading, took care of MOST of it. But when reading really took off, spelling became atrocious. I just didn't have time to spell everything; and because he was writing words he had already read in various books, he always had "some" hint about it.

    At first, looking up a word to spell out, I would correct him right away if he said the wrong sound (f for ph, for example); later I would say "try another f pattern"). Finally, he was getting fast enough to just work it out himself before I could even correct him. I also think it was more confidence with him than anything else; combined with wanting to rush-rush-rush that he doesn't "think" before he acts all the time. (sound like a boy? ;) )

    I'd say it was by his 7th birthday, he was using the dictionary with relative ease; but that's HIM. He's not into other things that other children are way more advanced ;)

  15. Woohoo! My new layout allows threaded comments and I just figured out how to turn them on.