school classrooms (was visibility)

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Thu Sep 27 12:20:14 UTC 2001

Bethany tells what she does in her classroom, which is helpful.  I think
most of us do similar things.  The problem is, however, that most people
(even most people who go through higher education) will not go through one
of our classes and get this info.  I think something more reaching is
needed, and I'll concede that this isn't the best forum for it.  But no one
seems to know what the best forum is.  For one thing, we need to reach
teachers, but at least as importantly, we need to reach the people who are
teaching future teachers.  I know a lot of us do, as linguistics courses
are included in many education degrees, but they're not integrated enough
into the education program--we don't show teachers _how_ to use
dictionaries in the classroom.

Erin McKean did a study on what teachers feel they do/need for dictionary
skills teaching, which is published in last year's _Dictionaries_.  The
problem, of course, is that teachers are already expected to do way too
much in their limited time, so dictionary skills often fall through the

--On Thursday, September 27, 2001 7:12 am -0400 Frank Abate
<abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET> wrote:

> Lynne M makes a good point.  One problem is that in the noncollege
> classroom, one has to get the attention of kids who likely are more used
> to looking things up online, not in books.  This is merely anecdotal, but
> I've been told by grade school teachers that they cannot easily get their
> kids to use the book dictionaries that are already in the classrooms.
> The younger set has become enamored of online reference tools, and
> changing their habits will not be easy.

I'm not sure that we need to change their habits.  Yes, it's good to learn
how to use books, but if they're going to use on-line dictionaries, then
they still need dictionary skills.  (This seems to go along with the
assumption I saw in a lot of Erin's responses from teachers--assuming that
dictionary skills = alphabetization and use of guide words.)  My impression
from students coming into university is that they're given very little
training on critical use of on-line sources.  The issue of "the dictionary"
versus dictionaries is as relevant for on-line use as for printed ones.
Skills/knowledge relating to about you should look for in a dictionary, how
many grains of salt you should allow, how to use part-of-speech info or
examples or etymologies, etc. are as relevant to on-line dictionaries as to
print dictionaries.  Perhaps the way to get more time in the classroom is
to frame dictionary skills as information skills rather than as book skills.


M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

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