Lesson: Using a Dictionary: Finding a Definition

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Lesson Objective

Students will use a dictionary to determine the definition of an unknown word.

Lesson Plan

Connection (3-5 mins): Readers, you have learned many different ways to figure out the meaning of an unknown word but sometimes even using our best strategies we may not be able to figure out the meaning of a word.  If this is the case and you feel like you still don’t understand the word after using word parts, synonyms, and context clues, you may use the dictionary.  Today, we will practice using the dictionary to figure out the meaning of an unknown word. 


Teach (10-12 mins): Students should be seated on the carpet with a partner.  They will be expected to turn and talk with this partner throughout the lesson.  First, let’s look at an entry  in the dictionary.  Teacher places a dictionary page on the overhead for students to see.  What do you notice about this page?  Turn and tell your partner what you notice.  Teacher listens in to conversations and calls on students to share what they noticed. 


Okay, now that you are familiar with the dictionary page, we can look at an article to see if there are any words we need to look up in the dictionary.  Teacher places the article, “Ants Go Marching In” on the overhead.  As we read, when I come to a word I do not know, I will use the dictionary to figure out the meaning.


Teacher reads aloud the first paragraph of the selection.  Already, there was a word I did not understand and I think I missed the meaning of the sentence.  The second sentence uses the word, foraging.  I’m not really sure what that means.  But I do know the word has a suffix, ing.  So I will take that part off the word and look in the dictionary to find the definition. 


Teacher opens the dictionary.  I know I need to look in the section with words that begin with the letter, F because the dictionary is in alphabetical order.  I see the word forage, I think that must be the root word of foraging.  The dictionary says, “ to search for food”.  Now that I know what the word foraging means, I can think about the word in the sentence.  I think that desert ants must go on expeditions to find food.  Did you see how helpful it was to know what the word foraging meant in order to understand the meaning of the entire sentence.


Did you see another word in this paragraph you did not know?  Turn and tell your partner that word.  Students turn and talk.  Teacher has students share and charts a list of words that will be looked up later in the lesson.


Now we have a great list of words we do not know.  I purposefully picked an article to read that has a lot of difficult vocabulary so we would have more time to practice.  Let’s begin looking up each of these words.  Teacher gives each partnership a dictionary (f the class if bigger or not as many words were listed, students can work in groups of three or four).  Teacher assigns each group a word to look up in the dictionary.  Once you have found your assigned word, raise your hand and I will have you write the definition on our class chart.


Teacher allows students time to search for words and calls on students who are ready to share to write on the chart.  After each student has found their assigned word, teacher calls the group back to attention.  Great job readers! Look at all the new words we have learned today by using the dictionary.  This is important because without understanding the meaning of these words we may not have learned anything from the article.


When you return to your seats, you will practice this same skill with your own independent reading book.  A dictionary should already be at your table to share with your group mates.  Off you go readers.


Active Engagement (15-20 mins): Students return to their seats to work independently.  Each student will be given a dictionary.  If resources are not available, students can share their dictionaries.  Students will be expected to read from their independent reading books during this time.  As they read, each time they read a word they do not know, they should record the word on a chart (attached).  Each student should then look up the word in the dictionary and write the definition on the chart as well.  This worksheet will be collected at the end of the lesson.


Exit Slip/Share (3-5 mins): The chart used during independent reading time should be collected as an exit slip.  You are checking to ensure students were able to accurately use the dictionary to find the definition of a word.  You should also have each student share one word they located in the dictionary.  This will give you an informal idea of if students understood the definition they found or if they simply copied the definition without comprehension.


Reflection: In this future I would change a few things about this lesson.  I think it is a good idea to check in with each group of students during this lesson or have a mid-workshop interruption to explain that students can’t just copy definitions.  The goal is have students understand the definition of an unknown word but I found many students didn’t know words in the definition.  I would stop workshop time, to teach students that sometimes we might even have to look up words in the definition to truly understand the meaning of an unknown word.

Lesson Resources

Dictionary Worksheet.doc  
Ants Non-fiction Article.pdf  


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