This summer, as I did the What-To-Chuck Walk around my classroom, my eyes kept returning to an entire bookshelf filled with giant Merriam-Webster Dictionaries.
We’re not talking five or six of them. We’re talking an entire class set. The collection was one of those inherited things that another teacher offered to me, and I was too much of a naive, young, greedy teacher to turn them down. They were still in near-perfect condition, each with a $22.99 sticker stuck to the front cover.
So I began the analysis: Do my students use them? Was in because of accessibility issues? Could I put them anywhere else? What else could I put there? Would something else on that shelf serve the students better?
Then I remembered one of my students from the last school year: Ellie. I think it was during our work on books for the Young Authors’ Conference. I remember her words and actions specifically. She was working at her table, located near the wall of computers in my room. She must have still been drafting or editing. Nearby, students were typing their drafts on GoogleDocs, preparing to copy and paste into StoryJumper for publication.
Ellie came across a difficult word to spell. She asked her neighbors, to no avail. Then she flipped on her lightbulb and exclaimed aloud, “Let’s look it up on GoogleDocs!” Within seconds she was leaning over a friend’s keyboard, typing her best guess and waiting for for “The Red Squiggly Line.” With a flash of the line and a quick right click, she had her correct spelling and was back to writing.
Meanwhile, four pieces of dust fell atop the dictionaries on the bookshelf.
So during that reflection, I had my answer. I loaded up the dictionaries on a chair with wheels and scooted my way to the storage book room. It was tough to stack perfectly good dictionaries (and their price tags!) on a dark shelf in the corner of the book room, knowing well that they would remain their until the end of time. But alas, it is a different time. Ellie, and all of my students, have coping mechanisms to assist them. [Rest assure, I’m about to right-click on my spelling of “mechanisims” instead of heading to my bookshelf for a dictionary.]
Thanks for leading the way, Ellie!