Students learn best from their personal experiences. As children are writing, they need to know how to look up words in the dictionary. Standard dictionaries have so many words, it can be challenging for younger learners to use the dictionary appropriately. It is best to create a dictionary for each individual student to use. Since the ideas in their student dictionary are self-generated, students are more inclined to use their dictionaries.
Label composition notebooks with a sticker stating the notebook as a student dictionary. Place the students' names on the front of their notebooks.
Label each page with page numbers. Do this in advance or have your students help with this task. Numbering the pages may be challenging for younger students. Enlist the help of a classroom parent to help with the page numbers.
Write the letters of the alphabet at the top of the even numbered pages. Do not write the letters on every page, as some letters will require two pages for the student to record on. As word-wall words are introduced, have the students write the word from the word wall in the appropriate section.
Meet with individual students while the rest of the class is writing during writer's workshop. Notice any words that the students have misspelled. Write the correct spelling onto a note card. Leave the note card with the student and have the student write the correct spelling into his student dictionary. Also, ask the student to change the misspelled word on his writing piece.
Ask the students weekly what word they would like to learn how to write. Make a list on the front of the classroom . Instruct students to choose which words they will put into their student dictionaries.
Monitor the students' use of their dictionaries. If students seem to be using their dictionaries inconsistently, model the correct way to use the dictionary. Praise students when they are making wise use of their dictionaries. If needed to assist a student, draw pictures next to words that he is having trouble reading. It is important that each dictionary is designed for the individual student.
Help your student get into the habit of using their dictionaries by referring to the dictionaries often.
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