Everyday I read to my students a chapter from a novel. Not just any novels, not "chapter books" as they like to call them in the library. We read City of Ember, Sign of the Beaver, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Where the Red Fern Grows....The list is a good one. They love when I sit down with them and say, "Next chapter." They hate when I have to close the book and send them off to write about it. Not because they don't like the work, but because they can't wait to hear the rest. The challenge comes for them during their assignments when they have to look up words from these wonderful books. Are you going to find words like begrudging or proprietors in the Children's Dictionary that the school provides for us? Not likely.
When I began teaching the Talented and Gifted Cluster class, my friend Chris gave me her backbreaking unabridged dictionary and a paperback dictionary that seemed to have every word a student might need to make it through a challenging novel. Unfortunately, the paperback dictionary went the way that well-loved, well-used paperback books do...to pieces. That left the monstrous lexicon for my students to fight over everyday. It is funny to watch them, in a warped way, when they are peering over their shoulders when they should be journaling or responding to the question from the day's reading to see if someone is standing by the dictionary. As soon as a student walks away, another one jumps up to vie for his/her time with the cherished tome as one would vie for time with the pope.
I went to the Literacy Library at our school which is jammed packed with materials for teachers to use, but when I looked for dictionaries for students who already know the meaning of words like transportation or constitution, I was left lacking.
For now, the students will have to battle over the beloved dictionary until I can use the $50 our district has given each teacher to spend on our classrooms. (Man I wish I was coaching football instead - they don't have to worry about where their uniforms, or buses for traveling will be coming from.) I guess I will be heading to the store this weekend to find some good dictionaries. Wish me luck.