Teaching Idea: Create A Personal Dictionary

Use the words your child has difficulty spelling to construct and create a personal dictionary with your child.

Many children have difficulty with reading, writing, and / or spelling words they are expected to know at their grade level. Each child is different and unique, and differences in their abilities to read, write and spell are expected at every grade. A tool that can help each child succeed at spelling with their peers is a dictionary. At home, parents can help their children to create a personal dictionary using words with which their individual children have difficulty.

Your first task in creating a personal dictionary with your children is to figure out exactly which words are troublesome for them. You can do this simply by observation. When helping your children with homework, make a list of words that commonly cause problems. Or, you might want to make a list of words your children have trouble with on their weekly spelling tests. Another choice is to obtain a list of common words from your children's school. The classroom teacher or resource teacher will have lists of sight words, or words commonly used at a particular grade level which they will be able to share at your request. Ask your children to spell each word on this list as you read them aloud, and make your word list from this criteria. You might want to consider a minimum or maximum number of words for this dictionary, depending on your children's ages.

Now that you have a list of target words, your next step is to create the dictionary. A popular choice for personal dictionaries are commercially-made index cards, lined or unlined, depending on the ages of the children in mind. Large-sized cards are available for younger children. You might wish to create your own cards by measuring and cutting heavy paper such as card stock, or even use card stock in your printer. A second item to consider is your binding. You might choose to individually hole punch cards along their margins, and join them with single loose-leaf rings. Possibly, you have access to a commercial binding machine, to professionally finish your dictionary with a plastic comb. Alternatively, you can purchase miniature binders intended for collections of index card-sized material. The key is to ensure that the dictionary card pages are loose enough to allow free page turning. The choice is yours, depending on your financial needs and the availability of materials in your home and community.

The final step is to fill out the dictionary, guiding your children in its completion. Be sure to have target words available for your children to copy, rather than creating frustration with trying to spell words that are inherently difficult for them. Have your children write, type, or print each word onto individual cards. Depending on your children's grade levels, you may wish to have them draw pictures for each card, or use clip art to represent each word for easy finding. You might ask your child to write all vowels in one color and all consonants in another, or ask your child draw the outline, or configuration, of each word. If your child is just learning cursive writing, perhaps you might suggest your child rewrites each printed word in cursive on the back of each card. Be sure to use have a variety of interesting materials, tools and colors available to keep your children's interest on target. Do not attempt to finish all cards in one sitting, but make this process a special parent-and-child task to build togetherness.

When all your cards are complete, place them in alphabetical order, create a personalized title card, and bind your dictionary using one of the suggested techniques. Your final task is to make sure you children have the phonetic and alphabetical skills to successfully word-find in their dictionaries. Now your children have personalized reference tools to help them in spelling and writing at home, or even in the classroom environment.

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