Monday, May 06, 2013

Fun With Dictionaries

Advice to Little Girls
by Mark Twain
illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
Enchanted Lion Books, 2013
review copy provided by the publisher

I glanced at this book when it came in the mail, but what really caught my attention was this article on Brain Pickings that told how this book came to be published in the United States. Go ahead and click over to take a look. You'll get to see several spreads from the book, which will give you a feel for the quirkiness of the illustrations and the archaic language of Twain's text.

How to share this book with modern children, though? Here's what I came up with:

There are eight bits of text in the book. Perfect for eight groups of three. I told my students a bit about the scrapbook-feel of the book, about when it was written, and about Mark Twain. Working with a dictionary, I challenged each group to "translate" their bit of text into modern English. When they were all finished, I read each page, followed by the group reading their translation.

I was pleased with how much of the humor my students were able to understand, once they'd plowed their way through the language! Fun with dictionaries!!


  1. Exactly right! Glad to hear about the book too.

  2. What a treasure! I love the activity you did with it. Sounds like a lot of fun to translate the bits of advice. "Do not sass old people unless they sass you first." Tee hee!

  3. Just saw Hal Holbrook as Mark coming upon this little treasure sounds "meant to be". I'll have to check it out!

  4. i am excited by the idea of bringing "archaic" texts back to life and I especially love me some Twain. I find once people get over the initial "ugh this is hard" and really think about Mark Twain they find him hilarious and i'm sure students are not any different. Thank you for sharing so many of your great literacy lessons here it truly is a great way to generate new ideas and share some old ones.


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