During our day covering Chapter 5 in Little House in the Big Woods, Ms. Margie Gray
wanted us to cover dickshunaree skillz.
Yea, I’m pretty sure the Ingalls family had a huge dictionary that they packed from
Minnesota, to South Dakota to Missery with them.
The little girl who had to play with a corn cob doll certainly didn’t have a dictionary.
But, I think it’s a fine skill to learn, so I pushed on with my usually joyful abandonment.
That’s a line I read once and I’ve been waiting to use it.
Picking up a dictionary always gives me just a little bit of a frustration flashback.
In the fifth grade, I asked Mrs. Hayes how to spell tongue.
I was writing an amazing essay on uses for the tongue,
including such wisdom as sticking out your tongue at your brother
behind your parents’ back to annoy them and get them in trouble.
She wouldn’t tell me. With wilting coffee breath foreshadowing her negative command,
she said, “Look it up in the dictionary.”
With all the wisdom a 10 year old can possess, I asked,
“How can I look it up in the dictionary, I can’t spell it?”
She glared at me over her glasses, and I knew the conversation was over.
I was OK that she glared, when she smiled, I had to see her crooked, coffee-stained teeth.
The conversation was over, but not my offense.
I thumbed through the dictionary with exaggerated huffings and turnings,
mumbled how I couldn’t find it because I couldn’t spell it,
then spelled it TUNG in effigy.
Although Mrs. Hayes discounted my paper for misspelling tongue over and over,
she did take my paper to the teacher’s lounge and had all the other teachers read it.
I guess I won that round.
To my chagrin, (what is chagrin anyway? do you ever use it in speaking or just writing?)
I found myself repeating this instruction to one of my kids years ago.
Then, I repented. I gave them a little extra advice on how to find a word in the dictionary
when you don’t know how to spell it.
Begin with the first letter.
Guess at the second letter.
If you don’t find it, guess again, thinking of other phonetic rules that might impact pronunciation,
in this case, the schwa rule. If looking up tongue, you can kinda rule out “e” and “I” because they
There ya’ go. You should find your word.
It’s important that kids feel comfortable with a dictionary, it could be their best friend.
OK, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it can’t be their enemy.
Understanding all the different terms is a good way to begin.
This is the outside back cover of the dictionary I use.
My mommy bought it for me. She is an avid thrift shopper
and has found stacks of great books and workbooks for me over the years.
The hardest thing about using a dictionary, is remembering alphabetical order.
At least in math if you forget a fact, you can count on your fingers.
With this, you’re stuck with singing the alphabet song in your head
Just teach your kids to sing silently to themselves,
even if they’re the only child in the classroom.
Someday they’ll be out in the world trying to socialize,
and hometeached people who sing to themselves could be just
a little annoying. A lip-moving-while-thinking person is slightly less weird.
(Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York, 1982)
Macmillan also provides a great pronunciation key.
Flip through the dictionary you’re using and familiarize yourself
with all the tools they provide.
And because homeschoolers sometimes feel left out
if they don’t get worksheets, I made one using Ms. Gray’s
terms and definitions.
You can use it, too.
It’s ain’t perty, it’s ain’t fancy, but I got ‘er dun.
So, now you know how to use the dickshunaree.
If ewe think I spelt that rong, just go look it up, k?