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