Create a Class Pictionary
Invite students to create dictionary entries for content-area vocabulary with illustrations to help define each word. Pictionaries can be an on-going tool for making new words come alive. Select words from your science or social studies unit and assign one or more to each student. Show them how to create a pictionary page for their word that includes the following:

  • a definition
  • the part of speech
  • the etymology
  • a picture
  • a sentence using the word

Work with students to compile the pages into alphabetical order, staple the pages together, and add a colorful cover. Students can also read the pictionary to study for tests.

Daffy Definitions
Challenge the class to pick out a correct definition among several false ones. Select a word from the dictionary and write it on the board. Under the word, list four definitions include one that is real and three that are made-up. Label the definitions AD. Ask students to read the meanings carefully and record the letter for the correct definition. Let them check their responses by looking the word up in the dictionary. Once students are familiar with this activity, let them take turns selecting words and writing definitions to fool their classmates!

Dictionary Scavenger Hunt
Help students become familiar with the different parts of a dictionary entry. Divide the class into pairs. Challenge them to use the dictionary to find and record various words based on a list of clues. For example, ask students to find a word with French origins, a pronoun, an entry that includes an illustration, a word with four syllables, or a word that is used both as a noun and a verb. The winning team can create their own list for the class!

Definition Patrol
Every week, assign one or two students to be on "Dictionary Duty." During the day, whenever the class comes across an unfamiliar word during activities such as reading aloud, the student on duty will find the definition and read it to the class. After discussing the words, mark them in the classroom dictionary using a highlighter. By the end of the year, the class can see how many new words they learned!

ABC Order
Using a dictionary requires students to understand alphabetical order. To give them practice with this skill, set up an Alphabetizing Center with objects such as cereal boxes, candy bar wrappers, baseball/trading cards, student photos (labeled with names), and children's books. Once students become comfortable alphabetizing, challenge them to a race. Using a timer or a stopwatch, time students while they sort their objects in the correct order. The student who finishes his or her object group first is the winner!