I'm a bit of a dictionary geek. I collect old dictionaries (the picture above is from one of them) and I have been known to read Little Bob for pleasure. It's all to do with my fascination with words. I also collect books about words.
I am very pleased that the new curriculum for Key Stage 2 Languages makes explicit mention of dictionary skills:
"Pupils should be taught to.....broaden their vocabulary and develop their ability to understand new words that are introduced into familiar written material, including through using a dictionary"
Bilingual dictionaries can be the language learner's best friend, or, if used badly, their worst enemy. I taught Key Stages 3 and 4 for 14 years, and have seen more than my fair share of examples of dictionaries being used badly. The title of this post is one of my all-time favourites (have you worked it out yet?!) and there are plenty more howlers, if you fancy a chuckle, on this TES thread. A dictionary is only as good as the person using it, so we owe it to our primary language learners to teach them how to use their bilingual dictionaries effectively.
The children to whom I teach Spanish often see me using WordReference.com to check vocabulary, spellings and genders, but they actually start to learn to use a proper paper dictionary in Year 3, when we do our "things in your pencil case, nouns and gender" unit. Last week I was after a short whole-class activity to help Year 3 to practise using their dictionaries. The #MFLTwitterati came up with some great ideas, so I thought I would share them here with you, along with the many links that I have for dictionary use.
1. How many things from a certain category can they find in a minute? Try red things, foods, animals beginning with c, etc.. From Nieves Sadullah
2. Say a word, the children look it up and then put the dictionary open at the right page on their heads so that you can check their answer. Year 3 loved this one - it made us giggle! This idea also from Nieves.
3. Sylvie Bartlett-Rawlings suggests giving a short list of words to find in a limited time, like these lists.
4. Play 'Stop the Bus': give a letter of the alphabet, and get the children to find a certain kind of word beginning with that letter, for example a food beginning with p. Then they shout "Stop the bus!" when they have found it. Thanks to Terri Dunne for this one.
5. Jo Rhys Jones suggests races to put words into alphabetical order, and playing Musketeers: choose a noun to look up -"Un!" - place the dictionary on the table - "Deux!" - then hold it in the air Musketeer-style - "Trois!" - and after "A l'attaque!" race to find the word.
Free resources to go with the Oxford Learner's Spanish Dictionary
Free resources for the Collins First Time Spanish dictionary
Diccionario SMS - Spanish text abbreviation list
Spanish rhyming dictionary - with links to other languages too
Internet Picture Dictionary - Spanish
Spanish picture dictionary
Diccionario de María Moliner - monolingual Spanish dictionary
Diccionario de sinónimos
Lisa Stevens's blogpost about teaching dictionary skills in Spanish
Free resources for Oxford children's French dictionaries
Free resources for the Collins First Time French dictionary
Synonymes - French dictionary of synonyms and antonyms
French slang dictionary
Internet Picture Dictionary - French
Dictionnaire des rimes
Some more dictionary teaching ideas
Ideas for teaching dictionary skills that can be transferred from English
* Je pièce un pied ballon allumette = I play a football match. Of course.