Students will enrich their vocabulary and word reference skills by examining dictionary entries, exploring word origins, and inventing new words.
Fifth grader Nick Allen knows just how to make school more cool. In third grade, he transformed Miss Deaver's room into a tropical paradise with some paper palm trees and a sandy beach. In fourth grade, he taught his classmates to mimic the high-pitched calls of blackbirds. But now, in fifth grade, he's come up with his most ingenious idea yet. After learning about the origins of words, he decides to change the word pen to frindle. At first, it seems like a harmless prank, a way to annoy his dictionary-obsessed teacher. Then the whole class starts using the new word, and the joke spreads across town like wildfire. Suddenly Nick finds himself in the middle of a media frenzy over frindle. Will Nick emerge from the controversy a troublemaker or a hero?
Awards: Christopher Award; Horn Book Fanfare List
Reading Level: 4.8
- Give the class a simple oral direction using a made-up word. For example, "Please take out the eldnirf from last night." (In this case, eldnirf would mean "homework." It also happens to be frindle spelled backwards.) Ask students to listen carefully and follow directions. Repeat the sentence several times and use hand gestures to convey the word's meaning (i.e., point to a student's notebook or homework folder). Continue until most of the class has understood and guessed the meaning of the nonsense word eldnirf .
- Afterward, discuss the students' reactions to the activity. At first, how did you respond to the made-up word? How did you figure out what the teacher meant? What clues did you use to help you understand? What does eldnirf mean?
- Explain that in Frindle, the main character, Nick, learns about the origins of words and decides to create a new word for pen . What problems might this cause and why?
Step 1: Pass out dictionaries to students and ask them to look up the word pen . Review the different parts of a dictionary entry: the word, pronunciation key, part of speech, word origin, and definitions. Explain that all words originated from other words, whether Old English, French, Latin, or Greek. Notice that pen has three separate definitions, each with its own origin.
Step 2: Announce that today the entire class will follow in Nick's footsteps and create new words and pretend they can be found in the dictionary. Refer back to Nick's famous quote: "Who says a pen has to be called a pen ? Why not call it a frindle ?"
Step 3: Brainstorm a list of objects found in the classroom. Examples: books, notebooks, desks, magic markers, paper, blackboard, chalk, erasers, etc.
Step 4: Ask students to choose three objects to rename. Create new words for these everyday classroom items. Be creative and use your imagination.
Step 5: Write dictionary entries for the new words. Follow the format discussed in step 1, including a pronunciation key, part of speech, word origin, and definition. Students can also add a small illustration of the word.
Step 6: In small groups, have students use their new words in sentences and try to guess their meaning. Then present the new words and dictionary entries. Discuss which word might be the "frindle" of the group (the one which would achieve widespread use and recognition). Why?
Using all the new words and entries, compile a Class Dictionary. Ask students to choose five to ten words from the Class Dictionary to write a short story or poem. Be sure that students underline the newly created words used and include a Word Key that gives their meanings.
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by Louis Sachar
A collection of humorous short stories about wacky teachers and students.
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The School Story
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Double Trouble in Walla Walla
Subject Area: Language Arts
Standard: Uses a variety of strategies to extend reading vocabulary.