Use These Motivational Strategies For Teaching Dictionary Skills!!



Teaching dictionary skills is so imperative no matter what grade you're teaching!


It was always part of my Language Arts/ Literacy programme. To this day, I still use the dictionary or thesaurus for one reason or another - as I'm sure you do too.

Dictionary skills were usually taught at the beginning of the year (in September). As you teach the higher grades, the dictionary is used more frequently.

However, even when I taught grade 3, it was important for my students to learn how and why you use the dictionary. They get the hang of it at an early age and become familiar and comfortable using it later in life. Spell check on the computer is not good enough.

If your school can't afford class sets of dictionaries, partner students up, borrow from other classrooms. Do what you have to do to get those books!

When you begin your (mini) unit on teaching dictionary skills, make sure you have a class discussion about the uses of the dictionary and why you need to learn how to use it; i.e. how to spell a word, meaning of a word, dividing up words into syllables/parts, how to pronounce words, etc.

Each day teaching dictionary skills involved an oral lesson with examples on the blackboard and then an activity to complete for the following day. Do make sure that you take up the previous day's work before teaching the next skill.

I always started with putting words in alphabetical order. It sounds primary, but even grade 6's enjoy doing that and some find it challenging when several words begin with the same 2 or 3 letters, e.g. "crumb", "crunchy", "crust".

I had students doing a lot of activity sheets involving guide/entry words. If they don't get the hang of guide words, they won't be able to use the dictionary effectively. Even using the telephone book will be a challenge too, as they have guide/entry words at the top of each page.

As I continued teaching dictionary skills, I incorporated phonetics; i.e., how the words are pronounced, including the accent and how they are written phonetically. One classroom game I played with my students - I gave them a page # in the dictionary and then wrote a word phonetically from that page on the blackboard. As soon as the students found the word they raised their hand.

Or I'll print a word from different pages in the dictionary on separate flash cards. As I show my students each flash card, they must find the word in the dictionary and raise their hand when they find it. These activities can also be done with partners or in groups of 3 or 4.

Many words in the dictionary have multiple meanings or can be used as nouns or verbs, e.g. "flag" or are pronounced differently, e.g. "record". Have them make a list including the definitions.

Dividing words into syllables or parts was also an important concept when teaching dictionary skills. Several days were spent doing worksheets on this. Besides dividing root words, I also included words with prefixes, suffixes and plurals.

I also did a lesson slang words, such as "cool", "neat", etc.

If I could get my hands on some thesauruses, there were fun activities that I created so that my students became familiar with using a thesaurus.

Use your imagination, because you can create your own dictionary games. For instance, try this one - think of a word (write it on the board) that your students are not familiar with. Give them 3 definitions, 2 of which are false and have them try to choose the right one.

As I teach the various dictionary skills, I give many quizzes to make sure they understand the concepts.

All these marks are great ammunition when I have to write report cards. Great support to back up my statements. It's a wonderful backup.

Of course, at the end of teaching dictionary skills, you need to give them a test on all the different components you have taught them. The mark will be included in your Language Arts/Literacy marks when you need to do them for their first term.

I create fun reviews before the final test to get them prepared; e.g., "Raise your hand when you find a 3 syllable word in the dictionary."

After that, when one of your students asks how do you say or spell a word, or what does this word mean, you can reply with a smile "look it up in the dictionary, because you know how to do it!"

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