Learning New Words

Did you know that learning new words from the dictionary can be fun for kids? Well, everybody knows that dictionary is just the first thing that comes into your mind whenever you need to know the meaning of a new word. But for a small kid, his/her mom would actually be the ‘walking’ dictionary.

So that is what usually happens whenever Adzra picks up a new word, either from school or books or anything. “Mommy, what does bla bla bla mean?” is one of the most frequently asked questions she’d ask. And I would try to explain in a simple way, giving her an example to make sense of the word. And it would usually go on and on and on.

But now I found that I could make use of a dictionary, especially because Adzra already reads quite well. The tricky part is how to make learning new words fun, and she will know how to use a dictionary without asking me first.

So, as I was brushing the carpet (a bit lazy to vacuum) this morning, she broke the silence with her usual demanding question. This time, “mommy, what’s the meaning of infinity?” Hmm, a first grader asking me this abstract word! Instead of giving her the definition (which I was still struggling to make), I asked her back, “where did you hear that word?” She told me she had heard people say that. I still did not have a clear picture of the context, but anyway, I had to give her an answer. Then an idea popped up.

“I saw you take the Collins dictionary from the book shelf? Where is it now?” I asked her. Not a moment too soon, Adzra grabbed it from my study table. So here I was, in my ‘teaching’ mode.

Me: Do you know how to spell ‘infinity’?

Adzra and me : I-N-F-I-N-I-T-Y

So I opened the pages with Adzra, showing her how to look up words in the dictionary.

Me: Alright, so find the ‘I’ section, then look for ‘IN’, then “INF’, then you go down…here it is…infinity. Could you read the meaning for me, please?”

Adzra: Timeless time, space, or number.

She stopped for a moment, trying to grasp the meaning. I wondered whether she heard that word in Math, but then I gave her an illustration.

Me: you know, it’s like something that never ends. It goes on forever.

Then I remembered that she was fond of using the term BFF to describe her very best friends. Then I added.

Me: So, instead of saying ‘My BFF, my best friend forever,’ you could say ‘I want to keep our friendship in infinity’ (and I said this in a fancy, literary, poetic way).

If you knew Adzra, you wouldn’t be surprised to see her restate the illustration in her own creative way. But what I liked was when she said, “now I know, if I want to see the meaning of a new word, I’ll just open the dictionary. I don’t have to always ask you, ‘mommy, what’s the meaning of this, what’s the meaning of that.”

I was like, wow, this really got into your brain, little girl. And this got me thinking. “can you find me the meaning of ‘communication’?” Adzra quickly learned how to find the word, with just a little help from her mom. And she became excited. She continued to look up at other words she could think of, and would even follow me to the bathroom, just to show me how she came across words that she already knew.

“I love it. I’m gonna bring this dictionary everywhere I go,” she said, while putting it in her backpack, as she was ready for a sleepover at Aretha and Arrayah’s home. Alright, girl, have it your way, and I’m sure you’ll have fun with it.

So, just to give you a better picture of her excitement in learning how to play with a dictionary, take a look at this video that we took this morning.

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