How to Use a Dictionary

Our most recent accommodations update post was all about the dictionary.  The dictionary can be a great tool to have at your disposal, but if the student is clueless on its purpose and its magical word finding powers, it becomes nothing more than another heavy book.

So where should you start?  The first place to start might be with the Top Ten Reasons to Use a Dictionary.

1.  Learn how to spell a word and its plural form.
2.  Determine if a word is capitalized or abbreviated.
3.  Learn how to break the word into syllables.
4.  To pronounce the word correctly.
5.  Learn the part of speech of a word.
6.  Find the different meanings that the word has, as well as synonyms (same meaning) and
antonyms (opposite meaning).
7.  Find a sentence or expression with the word used correctly.
8.  Find the meanings of important prefixes and suffixes.
9.  Learn the special uses of a word.
10.  Find other words derived from the main word.

Now that your students are armed with the Top Ten Reasons to Use a Dictionary.  They’ll need some practice to learn how to use it.  We’ve found some really helpful dictionay-focused websites and instructional tools.

The resources below include information about guide words, parts of speech, pronunciation keys, and entry words. There are worksheets, definitions, games, lesson plans, tutorials, and more.


1.  Reading the Dictionary—This 26 page PDF file from Pearson includes explanations of how to use a dictionary, it includes exercises on syllables, parts of speech, definitions, and more.

2.  Education World, Dictionary Activities—This page has eight different dictionary activities and lessons for various grade levels.

3.  “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” Dictionary Game—Students can play this game to test their knowledge of guide words.

4.  Dictionary Scavenger Hunt Example—The scavenger hunt provides students the chance to practice using a variety of dictionary based skills.  The example is in Microsoft Word, so feel free to create your own sheets to play with your class.

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