This week for homework, my elementary schooler was tasked with a fun project to follow up on a class reading book, Donavan’s Word Jar (Trophy Chapter Book), which is suggested for grades 2 and up, age 6 and up. The story’s main character, Donavan, is obsessed with words and learning their meanings. He creates a word jar where he keeps slips of paper listing his favorite words and their definitions.
Following the reading, my son’s assignment was to create his own jar, selecting 10 words that are interesting to him and looking up their definitions.
Big selected the following words:
While Geb and Neptune are mythological gods, nearly all of the words were listed in the dictionary supplied by the school. All except for candy.
Big was perplexed. Internally, he knew the meaning of candy and could create his own definition, but was it the proper definition? When he came to me asking what to do, I didn’t quite trust his searching skills. How could spurious (a word he found in the dictionary and thought it sounded cool) be listed but not something as simple as candy? I searched the dictionary, twice. Candy really was left out of the dictionary.
We did what any other family of the 21st century would do, we pushed aside the several hundred page listing and pulled out our iPad. In seconds, we had a definition for candy:
After Big copied the definition, I watched him pick up the student dictionary, turning it as he sat quietly.
“Mom,” he said. “I don’t think I actually need this any more. Should I return it to school? If can find all the definitions online, what’s the use for a dictionary?”
I convinced him not to rid the ancient guide just yet, but asked my Facebook friends for opinions.
All good points. Of course, to each of the replies we could easily offer a retort–even for the backpacking through Europe suggestion. I mean, who would send their kid backpacking through Europe without a Smartphone?
What do you think? Should dictionary skills continue to be a focus of the elementary curriculum? Or will they be phased out in the next 20 years?