Fictionary

This project works best if your class is into speculative fiction, which is collectively the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Since these types of stories often have made-up words (or perhaps established words with new or modified definitions), students will make a miniature dictionary (with, say, twenty entries or so) with words from a fictional franchise that they love.

The first step is for students to choose which property they’d like to work with. We’d leave the doors wide open on the possibilities, but you may want to guide them in particular directions based on what’s popular or available in your area, at your school, and for your class’s age range. It would be nice if there were different stories/franchises featured across the class, but it would also be interesting to compare dictionaries that different students made for the same property.

The second step is to identify words they can include. This may take some time, so we recommend giving students a couple weeks for this part. As they read, listen to, or watch their stories, they should make notes whenever they come across a word that we don’t typically use in our world. In addition to jotting down that word, they might want to note the page number or time-mark in case they need to revisit it later.

Third, students should form their entries. They may want to have a dictionary open as a reference, and it’s probably a good idea for you to go over the format with the class before they begin this part. Each entry should have the word, the pronunciation, the part of speech, the definition(s), irregular forms of the word (like plurals or participles), and that word as other parts of speech (usually by adding suffixes like -ness, -ity-, -ate, etc.). There’s also the option of them including example sentences.

If students are having difficulty figuring out just how to define some of these words, they can use an online reference (since even information about fictional worlds will almost certainly be available on one or more websites). However, make sure that what they ultimately write down is in their own words.

As a final note, if the story they’re pulling from is rather expansive, students may choose to narrow the scope of the dictionary. For example, a student going with Harry Potter or Star Wars might choose to only focus on creatures, in which case their dictionary would be a bestiary.

Here’s a shortened example we made.

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