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Dictionary Skills

Reading | Literature 


Senior Member
It seems that the kids have no idea how to use a dictionary. They are a bit better using the glossaries at the back of the textbooks, but it is important for them to be able to use a dictionary and understand all the info that the entry presents. Does anyone have any ideas or material that could be shared? I'd love to incorporate this as a mini workshop in my class. TIA.


Full Member
I introduced it during Word Work. One of the options for Word Work activities is to look up their words in the dictionary and write the definition down...I taught them how to do it at the beginning of the year, and then monitored how they did it on their own during Word Work. It wasn't so much about them learning the spelling or definition of the word (although if they did it was a nice by-product) but really about getting them to know the dictionary better!


Senior Member

One of the biggest things I assumed in 3rd grade is that they could do abc order easily. Many of them can't! We worked on that extensively before we did dictionary skills. There was no way we could go into dictionary skills if they couldn't figure out how to do abc order to the 3rd and 4th letter.

I have a class set of dictionaries, which helps for everyone to have the same one. I'd start with an easy word and show them how the guide words are used. I have some worksheets to go along with it (sample words pulled from a dictionary), but they're at school. Then we'd look at the one word and see everything the dictionary tells us about that word (part of speech, pronunciation, several definitions, etc...). I've also put them in small groups before and had them do a "scavenger hunt" for things - like what part of speech is character? What is the most common definition of friendship? I just had them all listed on a sheet for them to find.

After we practiced several days (it took a lot of practice!), they loved having dictionary races!

Happy Knitter

Senior Member
I like the scavenger hunt idea and I wonder if someone has made some dictionary task cards? I saw some for guide words, but I haven't seen any for dictionary skills in general.


Senior Member
Not task cards....

but it could be used as an ongoing Center Activity.

You could have 3 sets of 40 cards (leveled vocab. if you wish)

This is not my original idea, but it is very useful and easy to implement.
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  • Digging Through The Dictionary center.doc
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Senior Member
Thanks so much

These will work beautifully in a word work area. I totally agree that kids need to get used to using the dictionary.


Full Member
I used a Guide Words

activity from Mailbox (I think) that the kids liked. You have a stack of cards with a word on each card and a sheet of paper (you can make your own on index cards or print on cardstock [or even paper, I suppose] ). One student picks 2 cards to use as the guide words and places them on top of the sheet with plenty of room in between. The next student picks a card from the stack and places it where it would go in relation to the guide words. If it's before the first card, it's placed off the sheet before the first card, if it goes after the second guide word, it's placed off the sheet after the word. As students take turns, they continue to put the words (on and off the sheet) in order.


Full Member

for the digging through the dictinary worksheet. This will be perfect as an at seat activity for my students. Thnaks for the posting:)