Grumbling the entire time, my granddaughter turns to the s’s. “You need to find “st’s,” I encourage. “Got it,” she replies. “Okay, now look for “str,” I direct. “That’s hard, she says, as her finger scrolls down the page. “Found it,” she says. “Well, next you need to find “stra.” “That one’s easy,” she comments, “cause it’s “a” and it’s going to be first. “Next you need to find “strat.” “That one is hard again, she murmurs. “Just keep looking until you find the “t.” That’s the next letter.” “Shew. Found it.” “Good,” I encourage again. “Now the next letter in line "strat-e.” “Why do I need to do this anyway? It’s hard and boring.” “I’ll explain why it’s important, as soon as we finish finding this word,” I respond, chuckling. “Okay, I have “strate.”
“Next add the “g.” “Strateg,” she repeated. “Got it.” Now find the “y.” “I found it! I found 'strategy'!” she said with a fair amount of excitement. “Tell me the definition,” I instruct. “What?” she asked. “Tell me what strategy means.”
Why do our children need to learn how to use a dictionary? There is some debate about the need, given how easy it is to “google” words on the computer. Some contend it makes no sense. It’s like learning cursive. It’s not needed! Our world is all about technology. A dictionary is almost worthless!
Our lives are a little like the process of looking up words in the dictionary. And it’s interesting to note how many of us hate the process, much like my granddaughter hates using the dictionary. It takes time, along with a specific thinking process, to make the right decisions!
We must take one step at a time, just like looking for the next letter in the word. If you miss a letter, the word will be impossible to find, and ultimately spelled wrong. The words have a varied amount of definitions and sometimes the same action (or decision) by two different people, even with similar circumstances, consequences (good or bad) are going to be different. How we view the word within given context can change the meaning. We must make choices and apply the meanings to our lives.
It’s also interesting to note, learning the process of finding words in the dictionary, teaches a child they can have autonomy over their learning, even at a very young age. That can be a very powerful attitude to nurture. Additionally, just as a parent wants a child to learn to “earn” some of the things they want, learning on their own, teaches a child the value of learning and understanding a language, as well as, developing a curiosity about the world around them using words.
I encourage you to evaluate your perspective, first on a dictionary. Do you find them useful or just another archaic element of learning? Secondly, can you see how the relationship between searching for a word in the dictionary, one letter at a time, is like growing patterns and life choices? Share your thoughts!