The Incredible Power of the Simple Homemade Dictionary

A Smart Move (Naomi's Photos)
A Smart Move
(Naomi’s Photos)

For a change, this is a reposting of post that just went up on my Key in the Apple blog. I don’t usually repost but I must tell you that I firmly believe that a homemade dictionary is every bit as powerful a tool for any learner who finds it difficult to remember vocabulary, as well as one with a hearing loss.

Students with a hearing loss are notorious for having trouble remembering vocabulary studied in an EFL class.

There are many strategies for working on vocabulary retention (more in future posts) but a beginner learner should learn to view the dictionary as an integral part of his/her studies, from day one. Students, especially the motivated students, get very distressed by the fact that they have forgotten the meaning of vocabulary items they know they have learned (perhaps even were tested on!). This distress easily turns into a belief that their English studies are doomed for failure and that it’s hopeless to try.

Students who have begun using a dictionary early on, know that there is a “life-belt” and while remembering words is more convenient, words forgotten aren’t going to stop them from understanding, and successfully completing, their reading comprehension assignments. Having confidence is an incredibly meaningful factor in predicting the student’s ability to successfully reach expected levels in his/her EFL studies.

Students at the Beginners level should begin with a “Homemade Dictionary”. This can be made from a simple notebook.
Each page of a notebook must be given a designated letter. Ready made alphabet notebooks can be found in stores. The student adds vocabulary items as he/she learns them, with a drawing or a translation into mother tongue. This dictionary should be brought to every lesson, along with the pencilbox and coursebook.

When the homemade dictionary no longer meets a student’s needs it is time to move onto “real” dictionaries. both printed and electronic.

Note: You will find a post on myths related to use of dictionaries with deaf and hard of hearing students in the previous post, under: “The lifesaver – the dictionary”.

2 thoughts on “The Incredible Power of the Simple Homemade Dictionary”

  1. I have started my own dictionary for my Hebrew vocabulary to help me note down new words in an organised fashion. So far alef and mem are the fullest pages, vav has very little as does zayin. I will be curious to see what happens as my lists grow.

    1. Wonderful, Marjorie!
      Here’s a word that will help you with one of those pesky letters, because you deserve a bouquet (of flowers!):
      זר (pronounced Zer)
      Good luck!

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