Buying your child a dictionary early is a wise investment. A dictionary can help younger children recognize alphabetical order and can give older children a tool to find more descriptive adjectives. Children will learn spelling, increase their vocabulary, explore word origins, and find precise definitions.
You will need:
Dictionary appropriate to the age of the child
Follow these instructions:
Consider what skills your child has and plan your instruction accordingly. A child can begin to become familiar with what a dictionary is even if he just knows the alphabet. If she is learning to read, you can use a simple dictionary as a teaching tool. The more skilled a reader your child is, the more in-depth your instruction will be.
Explain what a dictionary is and the information to be found there: definitions, spelling, pronunciation, synonyms, antonyms, If you have an unabridged dictionary, explain that every word we use in the English language can be found there.
Teach the basics of looking up a word. Let your child think of a word he’d like to find. Demonstrate how to skip to the section that starts with the first letter of the word. Explain that once you find the first letter, begin looking for the second letter., and continue until you and your child find the word.
Have your child read some words and their definitions, or read them to her. Show that sometimes a word has more than one meaning. Explain that she can learn how to pronounce words from the phonetic explanation in the parenthesis next to the word.
Give your child a few words to practice. Have him look up the words himself. Ask him to tell you the pronunciation and how many different meanings the word has. This exercise will help you track your child’s progress in grasping dictionary usage.
Explain the guide words at the top of each page: that the guide word on the left side is the first word on that page and the word on the right is the last. Show how to use these guides to find a word quickly. For example, explain that if the left guide word is “dog,” and the guide word on the right is “dot,” and the child can immediately see that the word doll must be on that page, because l comes after g, but before t.
Give older children more advanced challenges. For example, give your child some notebook paper and a list of 10 to 20 words. Ask her to create a dictionary with those words by writing them in alphabetical order, and including pronunciations, guide words, and definitions.
Show your child how to use an online dictionary. Dictionary.com is a great resource for finding information quickly for book reports or research papers.