Designing lessons with dictionaries

I recently sent a letter to teachers who subscribe to my "Miss Thistlebottom? Not!" newsletter. It included a link to a recent blog post on digital dictionaries. In the letter, I asked teachers how they use dictionaries in the classroom, and whether there are activities or exercises they use to help students engage with word books. Several teachers responded: Kevin Lynch wrote to me about how he uses an online dictionary in the classroom:
I use dictionary.com on a smart board so the students can see examples of usage and hear the pronunciation. I always ask them "Guy or girl?" as to the voice we will hear for the pronunciation. We get into some funny conversations resulting from the question. I use it for assigned vocabulary assignments and for words that stump us from a reading.
George Steed sent greetings from Poland, where he teaches English as a Second Language:
I use Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition at our ESL sessions. When the student questions a word I refer him to the dictionary. I ask him to write the word down and its meaning. At the end of the session I ask for a meaning of those words. Homework often asks for meaning searches for subject words. My shelves are awash with English subject books. I present the different explanations of a subject that they offer. This week it was ‘parts of speech’. Professor Pinker’s list is the latest. Please know that many books in the library are there because you mentioned them.
And finally, Peter van Lint, a retired professor of Dutch Language and Literature in the Netherlands wrote of his bookshelf, (which makes me green with envy). Though he has retired from the classroom, he clearly hasn’t retired from using dictionaries:
I understand you have a weakness for dictionaries, I share that weakness. I own several shelves with dictionaries. Of course there is the heavy Van Dale Dutch in four tomes, or Koenen Dutch-English and English-Dutch. But also the French-Dutch (and D-F), German-Dutch (and D-G), the 1,250-page van Dale Spanish-Dutch and its heavy sister Portuguese-Dutch. The Dutch-Persian and Persian-Dutch [weighs in at] about 2000 pages, as does heavy counterpart of Arabic-Dutch and Dutch-Arabic. [And there are] the dictionaries of Latin and ancient Greek, not to mention the Larousse Dictionnaire de la langue Française, or the 1,215-page Diccionario Escolar de la Real Academia Española. Oh, and I almost forget the as-heavy Steingas’: a learner’s Arabic-English. And then there are quite a few smaller dictionaries of other languages, like Romanian, Welsh and Hungarian, which I seldom use. I also like specific dictionaries like [those that give] Dutch, English, French or Spanish etymology, or those for subjects like dialects or slang, religion, astrology, rhyme, and more. As to your question about the choice between digital or paper, for me it depends on the degree of pressure. If it must be done in a hurry, I confess with shame I rely on digital answers, but when I write or study without pressure, then I use the paper ones, and compare different versions. But often I check the digital answer with the ones on paper, may I say in my defense. I also prefer to look into paper Encyclopedias, rather than in Wikipedia, which in the opinion of my sons and daughter just proves I’m old fashioned. That’s probably true.

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