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Ancient Egyptian dictionary game

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By Alison Milford — Author and poet

This online resource is an interactive dictionary game, where children match 24 topic-specific words to their correct definitions, selecting from a choice of three. The game can be played as a whole class or in smaller groups, and is designed to generate discussion to justify choices and speculate on possible answers. The complete dictionary, showing the correct definitions and modelling dictionary conventions of layout and content, can also be viewed and printed off.

Dictionary game teachers notes

Previous learning

Children will need to have some experience of using dictionaries and know their purpose. They should know the alphabet, but an alphabet display strip is provided for support. Too much prior knowledge of the topic of ancient Egypt may actually spoil the game – it could be used as an introduction to the topic.

Shared learning and teaching

Before reading

  • Introduce the concept of subject-specific or technical vocabulary. List any words that the children already know to do with ancient Egypt. How would they find out about words that they didn’t already know?
  • Discuss the purpose of a dictionary. Use and explain the word ‘definition’. What other information does a dictionary give us? Look at some. Analyse and list the features of layout, different fonts and styles, and the meanings of the abbreviations.
  • How are dictionaries organised to make finding the meanings of words as easy as possible?

Shared reading

  • Read the instructions and make sure the children understand how the game works. Tell them you are looking for clear reasons for their choices of definition. What strategies might they be using? (Does the word sound like something more familiar? Does a part of it have meaning on its own?)
  • Work through the words, reading the definitions and allowing thinking time. Children offering a definition must explain clearly why they have chosen it. Take a range of suggestions and reasons before asking the class to vote on which definition to choose. If correct, the class/team/individual scores a point.
  • Take time to discuss unfamiliar groups of letters and sounds, such as ch and ae in archaeology; alm in embalm; ph and aoh in pharaoh and mb in tomb. Offer or ask for other examples of these spelling patterns.
  • Discuss how we make decisions about the meaning of words. We see the words in isolation. Would it help if they were in sentences?

Responding to the text

  • Look at the complete dictionary and note the conventions – word in bold, definition not; abbreviations for word class in italics and brackets; alphabetical order.
  • Discuss the language used for the definitions. It is brief, concise, precise and formal. How much information should the definition give?
  • Look at the words beginning with ‘a’ and establish how subsequent letters are used to order words with the same initial letter/letters.

Shared writing

Key learning outcomes:

  • To understand the conventions, features and purpose of dictionaries, and be able to use them;
  • To be able to express and justify choices when choosing definitions;
  • To develop and use subject-specific vocabulary related to ancient Egypt.

Ask the children to come up with definitions for further topic words - eg, kohl, lotus, onagars, chaos, Osiris, shabtis, relief, causeway, ritual, dedicated. Decide on the correct position of each new word among the original 24.

Group or independent work

  • Ask pairs of children to use a stopwatch and appropriately levelled dictionary to test each other’s speed and accuracy in locating definitions for a given list of words.
  • Invite them to order a given list of words and find the word class and definition.
  • Pairs can create a set of dictionary entries for another recent or ongoing topic, or using technical vocabulary for a hobby or interest.

Speaking and listening activities

Children can work in groups to prepare ‘Call My Bluff’ style challenges for the class or another group. They can use dictionaries to choose unfamiliar words, and make up two false definitions to give alongside the correct one.