We tend to think of the dictionary as a resource that gives us the definition of a word. However, dictionaries offer so much more than that, with features that expand learning by providing information relevant to all subjects. Electronic dictionaries are no exception. With the added benefit of interactive learning, a good online dictionary can provide useful information and hours of fun for children.
Merriam Webster’s Word Central provides a free and user-friendly option for children. The ad-free format is uncluttered, enabling children to find the information they need quickly. Users can choose to search a conventional or rhyming dictionary. A thesaurus is also available. The site’s mascot, Alpha-bot, guides children through free games that challenge them on skills such as spelling, usage and vocabulary. Students can check in to get the daily buzzword, a quick and friendly exposure to a new word each day. Kids can also have fun making up new words and entering them in the site’s “build your own dictionary” collection.
Fact Monster is a service provided by Pearson Education’s Information Please. The site is graphically pleasing for kids. It provides resources far beyond a simple dictionary. Kids can search the dictionary, thesaurus, almanac, encyclopedia and atlas from the home page. A link to the site’s Homework Center is also available on the home page is. There, kids can browse subjects to find relevant information applicable to their grade level. Kids can start preparing for their SATs with the daily analogy, which not only challenges kids to solve an analogy, but explains the logic of it. A spelling bee and word quiz are also available each day, as well as a list of “on this day in history” facts. There are also lots of free interactive games and quizzes to support grade-level learning objectives.
Rhyme Zone is unique; it appeals to kids to write poetry. While users can enter a search term and find a definition, synonym or antonym, they can also choose to find the word located in lines of poetry or quotations. Users can also search for specific words appearing in great documents. There is also an option to search for pictures of the word. The site offers an extensive Shakespearean library, where users can browse the plays by acts and scenes, as well as search for specific words within the texts. There is also an index of Shakespeare’s most popular lines.
When children using Wordsmyth Kids enter a word into the ”word explorer” bar, search results return not only a definition, but a picture as well. Also included in the search results are the word’s history and suggestions for further topics of exploration. Searches are recorded and displayed in a look-up history window. The site also offers a crossword solver and anagram solver to help kids with tricky word puzzles. To benefit from an interactive study aid, kids can use the “glossary maker” to enter their own spelling and vocabulary words.
Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.