After checking with the 3rd grade chairperson, she suggested practice using a dictionary. So I created an activity to reinforce all the skills needed to successfully use a paper dictionary. Our third grade students practiced using a traditional dictionary by looking up interesting new words. I chose words that were a little beyond the usual spoken vocabulary for this age group (falter, impartial, loot, quest, throng, etc.), but weren’t too difficult or abstract. To help them review the function of a dictionary, I asked them why they thought someone invented dictionaries. They came up with definition, pronunciation, spelling, etc. I went over the different parts of the graphic organizer, making clear what I was asking them to do. We briefly reviewed what “guide words” were, too.
I designed a very simple graphic organizer for each student to use. This time I had the students work by themselves, no sharing of dictionaries! I asked them to include the page number where they found their assigned word and they had to record the guide words that were on the page where they found their word. They also indicated what part of speech their word was, by circling the appropriate word.
I asked them to write down one definition (only one, even if there was more than one).
Third grade students polishing their dictionary skills.
Students practice using dictionaries, utilizing alphabetizing skills, plus getting writing practice.
After finding the definition of the word, they wrote a sentence that demonstrated they grasped the meaning of the word. I included the writing component as our students need lots of practice with writing. Some of the students surprised me by coming up with some very creative sentences. I had to have some students edit their sentences, as they either didn’t use the word in the correct way, ie. they used it as a noun and it was an adjective or the sentence just didn’t make sense (that’s why they need lots of practice).
As I could see that some students were still struggling with alphabetical order (I had to sing the ABC song a lot to assist them), with the second class I added another step. When they successfully completed their graphic organizer, I had the students place their paper on the table and we put them in alphabetical order as they brought them up to me. More singing of the ABC song!
Cursive Curve Ball!
I know that our students also need more experience and practice with cursive writing. When I wrote in the assigned word on the graphic organizer for each student, first I printed it, but I then also wrote it in cursive! Some were able to recognize that it was the same word while others were confused and thought it was a second word!
I don’t know I haven’t done this before, but after successfully completing the activity they each received a bookmark. They were excited about that!