Here’s three-year-old Tina’s definition of salt-water fish: “Fish that live in salty water because pepper makes them sneeze!” Coming from a three-year-old, this may sound cute; but, real information is what she needs for the challenges that lie ahead. The best way to help your child develop exemplary lexical skills is to show her how to use a dictionary. It’s a good habit to keep a dictionary close at hand: on the coffee table, the bedside table or wherever else your family likes to nestle in to read. Of course, with the technology available today, an online dictionary has become an item of convenience. Making a habit of referring to the dictionary will advance your princess’ vocabulary and help develop thorough language skills. Keep in mind that you need to choose a dictionary that is most suitable for your ward’s age. The market presents a wide range to choose from, including picture dictionaries, learner’s dictionaries and advanced dictionaries. Now, don’t let the hefty book faze you. Make it the friendly genie of your library that is always at your command by adopting some of these ideas.
- The ABC of it is that your little champion needs to be fluent with the alphabet to the extent that he can recite them, know the adjacent letters and can arrange them in order. Games using magnetic letters and fill-in-the-blank exercises can help him gain the required fluency.
- The letter-sound relationship is very important. Help your daughter master the Pronunciation Guide and, if she can, the phonetic symbols given in the dictionary. It will help hone her pronunciation skills. There are even many phonetic games available online that she will surely enjoy.
- Parts of speech are the building blocks to sentence-making. The dictionary mentions which part of speech each word belongs to. This will go a long way in helping your little genius as he strings words together to make his own sentences. Asking him to create sentences with words that you suggest will help him gain confidence in his writing and speaking.
- The affixes are a very fun lot to work with. They are the prefix and the suffix. These, when attached to the root word, add meaning to it. Your pre-teen will find the mastery of these most advantageous.
- Spellings are a major stumbling block among children and adults alike. Automated spellcheck has made most of us dummies in this department. A sure-fire way to get your little Webster to learn correct spelling is to help him use the dictionary. Let him use the dictionary to correct word dictations that you give him.
- Connotative and denotative meanings are just around the corner for your child. She needs to be confident about the meanings of words so that the next level, underlying meanings, do not confound her. Your toddler, on the other hand, would learn more from a picture dictionary. Some of these come with feel-patches that allow your little one to explore the texture of orange peel or cat fur!
- Opposites of words are given in all good dictionaries. These can help your little one better understand words and their meanings. These also feed her vocabulary.
- The two words at the top end of each page of the dictionary give the first and last words available for reference on that page. Teach your kiddo to thumb through them by playing the word spotter game with him. Tell him a word and time him on how fast he can find it in the dictionary.
- Practice makes perfect! Every time your child stumbles upon a new word, don’t explain it to her. Instead ask her to look it up in a dictionary and then explain it to you. This, when practised on a regular basis, can make her a lexical genius!
- Dictionary games are plenty and easily available. Here are some favourites: Pictionary, Scrabble, Word Quest, Guess My Name, Crosswords (for all ages) and Word Search.
As you can very well see, the dictionary is a treasure trove! With a little bit of discipline, it can become your teeny-bopper’s buddy as he grows up and learns more.
Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.
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