Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us



Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.



Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.



Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Brave New Words: Novice Lexicography and the Oxford English Dictionary

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)


Brave New Words: Novice Lexicography and the Oxford English Dictionary

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions (plus additional time for composing essays and presentations, if necessary)
Lesson Author

Scott Filkins

Scott Filkins

Champaign, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Students become novice lexicographers as they explore recent new entries to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), learn the process of writing entries for the OED, and write a new entry themselves.  Students will gain a deeper appreciation for the ways language grows and changes by following up their entry with a persuasive essay and a competition in which the strongest contender for the title of New Word is chosen.  Extensions will offer students a chance to evaluate old lists of "new words" and discuss the power dynamics of dictionaries.

back to top



  • Preparing Your OED Entry: Use this handout to have students explore the elements of creating a dictionary entry that shows a word's origins, definitions, contextual usage, and cultural referents.

  • Introduction to the Oxford English Dictionary: This handout helps students explore the history and ongoing development of the Oxford English Dictionary.

back to top



In The Vocabulary Book: Learning and Instruction, Michael Graves provides several examples of "systematic efforts-research conducted by students themselves-in the development of word consciousness.  Such original investigations centered on vocabulary provide a wealth of opportunities for increasing word consciousness" (130).  This lesson is such an activity-an investigation into the literal construction of meaning in regard to vocabulary and definitions of words.  Because its focus is on the very idea of defining, it moves students to the level of metalinguistics, the language of discussing language.  While Graves concedes in the matter of metalinguistic awareness that "just what students need and how they best can learn it are yet to be decided," this type of language study can "certainly be valuable to students," and is engaging as well as enlightening (Graves 136).

Further Reading

Graves, Michael.  2006.  The Vocabulary Book: Learning and Instruction.  New York: Teacher's College Press/IRA/NCTE.

back to top