Developing a strong vocabulary in elementary school is essential, and one aspect of this is learning how to use a dictionary. However, teaching kids to use guide words can be pretty tricky at first. In this blog post, I‘ll share how to teach the use of guide words an other dictionary skills to elementary students and share a sneak peek into the dictionary skills activities I use.
What are Dictionary Skills?
Dictionary skills refer to the ability to use a dictionary to find definitions, parts of speech, spellings, pronunciations, syllables and other information about words. Dictionary skills include understanding how to use guide words and to be able to determine where a word falls alphabetically between them.
Why Teach Dictionary Skills?
Learning to use a dictionary exposes children to a wide range of words that help build broader vocabularies, and help students understand unknown words. It teaches kids the basic skills they need for using a thesaurus, a recipe book, and other reference materials and lays the foundation for future research skills.
Side note: I know that we live in a rapidly changing world where computers are quickly replacing dictionaries, but many of the following skills are transferable whether your students are using a paper dictionary or the internet. And, even with the world wide web at the tip of our fingers, I still believe it is important for students to learn how to navigate a “real” dictionary.
When Should a Student Start Learning Dictionary Skills?
It’s never too early to introduce dictionary skills to students. As soon as children begin to read and encounter unfamiliar words, they can start learning how to use a dictionary. There are several age-appropriate dictionaries.
How Do I Teach Dictionary Skills?
- Step 1: Familiarize students with all parts of a dictionary (Guide Words, entry words, pronunciation, parts of speech, and definition).
- Step 2: Practice putting words in alphabetical order
- Step 3: Practice matching entry words between two guide words
- Step 4: Teach students about looking for context clues for words with multiple meanings
Get the Guide Words game here
10 Activities to Teach Dictionary Skills
- Introduction to Dictionary Labeling: Begin by explaining what a dictionary is and how it’s organized. Familiarize students with entry words, pronunciations, parts of speech, and definitions. Have students label the different parts of a Dictionary Skills worksheet.
- Word Hunt: Provide students with a list of words from their reading material. Have them search for definitions and write sentences using the words.
- Alphabet Practice: Ask students to find words in the dictionary based on the initial letter. This helps them navigate the dictionary efficiently.
- Guide Words Game: Teach students how to use guide words to quickly locate a word’s page. Create a game where students race to find words using guide words.
Get Dictionary Skills Task Cards here
- Guide Word Matching: Have students cut and paste words to fit between different guide words
- Context Clues: Discuss how context clues can help identify the meanings of words. Then, have students confirm their guesses using the dictionary.
- Pronunciation Practice: Practice pronunciation using the phonetic symbols in the dictionary. Help students decode and read unfamiliar words correctly.
- Parts of Speech Exploration: Teach students how to identify parts of speech in the dictionary. Then send them on a “parts of speech” scavenger hunt in the dictionary.
- Word of the Day: Use this as a quick morning activity where students will find and define a different “word of the day” each morning.
Dictionary Skills Worksheets
In addition to a done-for-you Teaching PowerPoint and posters, you’ll find 5 dictionary skills worksheets for students to practice…
- Matching entry words to guide words
- Locating words in a dictionary
- Defining words from a reading passage
- 2 Writing templates
- End-of-unit assessment
Each lesson in the mini unit is intended to be taught in 15 minutes or less each day. This means, no more excuses for not squeezing in grammar lessons 🙂
The no-prep dictionary skills activities include:
- a full week of lesson plans
- interactive teaching slides
- practice worksheets & answer keys
- task cards
- a reading passage
- end of the week assessment
Get a week of no-prep, Dictionary Skills Activities
Get all your grammar lessons planned for you with this yearlong 2nd grade grammar bundle! This time-saving resource includes mini units for every 2nd grade grammar and language standard.
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Introduction to Dictionary Skills Videos
There are several good videos on YouTube you could include in your essons or have your students watch on devices. These are my two favorites for introducing kids to using a dictionary, learning about alphabetical order and using guide words.
Introduction to Dictionary Skills
Dictionary Skills: Finding a Word
I hope this post was helpful in showing you how to teach dictionary skills to elementary students!