Thursday, February 18, 2010

D is for dictionary, Mom

One of the newest sayings around our house is:
"How can you find out what that word means?"
And of late, the response has become, "Oh no! Don't tell me to use the dictionary!"

Yes, that hardly ever been used well worn book is the one I mean.
We were reading the story of Laura Secord and a word caught my daughter's attention.
"What does 'pillaged' mean?"
"How can we find out?" (intentionality and reciprocity)
"Don't say it, don't say it! I know you are going to tell me the dictionary!"
"Do you think that would be a good book to look at for the meaning of 'pillaged'?"
"Good decision."
We read an obscure version of pillaged that leaves us with the word 'plunder'.
"Pirates plunder don't they? But there are no pirates where Laura Secord lives."
"Well, maybe plunder doesn't just have to do with pirates, maybe it has a deeper meaning."
I get the look. "Are we going to have to look up plunder now?"
I shrug. "Depends. Do you want to know what pillaged means?"
"Well, yes. But why can't you just tell me what it means and we can go back to reading?"
To be quite honest, I am thinking the same thing. Why don't I just tell her and we can get on to the fun stuff?
But I stay the course:
"Why do you think it's important for you to learn to use the dictionary?"
"Mo-om!" an exasperated laugh escapes my daughter's mouth.
"I could tell you the answer, but where is the fun in learning if I just tell you everything?"
"Well, we could hear the rest of the story."
"We could, but I think it will mean more to all of us if we know what the word pillage means. Then we can understand what Laura's family went through and understand the hardships her family faced. (Meaning) What do you think?"
"OK, but you're going to read what the definition of plunder is, Mom."
"Excuse me?"
Sigh. "Please Mom."
"I think I can do that. Plunder: to rob using violence or force."
"So the soldiers robbed Laura Secord's family. Why didn't they just say that?"
"Why do you think they didn't just say that?"

* I had to go back and bridge after this discussion. Upon writing it out I realized I had no bridging moment in here. Here's what I did:
"Hey, you know I was thinking about how we were using the dictionary to learn about the meaning of pillage and plunder. You know, the dictionary is a great book for us to use in all sorts of situations so that we can understand what a person is saying. Think of how handy it will be when you are reading a manual like our new dishwasher manual. You can make sure you understand what they are saying by knowing the definitions if you come across a word you don't understand."
I then took her to our dishwasher manual and found a word that was ambiguous to me. We looked it up. This lead to a discussion on precision and accuracy. I also asked her what other manuals or books could the dictionary help her understand.
Don't be afraid to go back and bridge a conversation from earlier that day. We are still learning how to create a mediated moment. Sometimes, upon reflection you realize that an element from the core has been missed. Don't worry about it. Go back and see if you can implement it. If you can't then just take what you've learned for the next time.

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