Do you have a picture dictionary on your desk that you’re just not sure how to use in the classroom?
Did your students purchase a picture dictionary for your class but haven’t used it much? Or do you have a class set in your classroom that you want to put to good use? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to try one or more of the following simple activities you can do with a picture dictionary.
Try These 10 Easy Activities You Can Do with a Picture Dictionary
Introducing Vocabulary Families
If you have a picture dictionary in your ESL class like The New Oxford Picture Dictionary, you might want to use it as a resource for your next thematic vocabulary unit. Have students turn to a particular page and introduce the vocabulary in logical groups. By teaching your students several related vocabulary words at one time and through one picture, they will not only learn the words themselves but will also make connections between the English words as they learn them, which will ultimately increase their fluency.
Getting the Message Across
Though many beginning ESL students already have some knowledge of the language, some classes may contain student with no English knowledge whatsoever. For students who have extreme trouble in communicating their ideas, a picture dictionary can help them their meanings across and decrease their stress. As they point to items in the dictionary, they will also learn the words they are looking up.
Are you looking for a writing prompt for your students that also relates to your current vocabulary unit? If so, try using a scene from your picture dictionary as inspiration. Have your students turn to a particular page and ask them to write about something they see in the picture. They might write about what a person is doing, or they may want to write about the place in the picture. No matter what on the page inspires them, you can encourage your students to use the vocabulary on the page as they write.
I Spy with My Little Eye
If you are looking for an easy game for beginning students, pull out your picture dictionary. A simple game of I Spy can be too challenging for student with little to no knowledge of English. Limiting I Spy choices to what your students can see on a page of their picture dictionaries, however, can not only simplify the game but can also help teach your students new vocabulary. Tell your students which page you are on, and then teach them the rules for playing I Spy. (I spy with my little eye something _insert color_.) This might also be a good opportunity to review color words with your beginning students.
If your students are ready for more of a challenge and want to get some question asking practice in as well, try playing 20 Questions with your picture dictionary. Have everyone in class turn to the same page. Then you or a student chooses an object on that page. The rest of the class takes turns asking Yes/No questions (20 is the limit) trying to determine the object you have chosen. If they can correctly guess the object in 20 or fewer questions, they win. If not, the win goes to you.
How much vocabulary do your students already know about a subject area? Using a page in the picture dictionary might help you find the answer to your question. Have students cover the words at the bottom of a page and just look at the picture. What items can they identify? Are they using the same words listed at the bottom of the page, or are they giving synonyms? Once you know what prior knowledge your students have, you will know where to focus your time and energy as you teach a vocabulary unit on that theme.
Vocabulary Quiz or Learning Center
If you want to challenge your students or evaluate just how much they know about thematic vocabulary, grab your picture dictionary and get in line at the Xerox machine. Take a photocopy of a page in your dictionary making sure to cover or cut out the words at the bottom of the page. Give a photocopy to each of your students or set a stack at an independent learning center. Then challenge your students to label all the identified words on the page. This exercise will challenge their vocabulary recall and spelling. If your students are doing this activity at a learning center, make sure you leave them a complete copy of the original page to see if their answers are correct.
Receptive Vocabulary Check
How much vocabulary does your class already understand? Use a picture dictionary to check. Retype the list of words on a given page, and arrange them in alphabetical order. Have your students cover the words at the bottom of the page in their dictionaries and see how many words from your list they can match with the correct number or letter in the picture dictionary.
What Page Are You On?
You can use your picture dictionary for a great listening activity in class provided everyone in your class has the same book. Choose a random page in the book, and describe to your students what you see there. You might want to use the vocabulary supplied at the bottom of the page, or you may want to keep your descriptions more general. (E.g. I see two men. One man is wearing a hat. He has on blue clothes.) Your students will have to listen to your description and then determine which page in the dictionary you are describing. The first person to get the correct answer scores a point. This activity will test your students’ listening comprehension, their memory recall, and their ability to multitask while they listen.
If you teach advanced students who think they no longer have a use for the picture dictionary, this activity may just prove them wrong. Divide your class into two teams. Have two students, one from each team, come to the front of the room for this vocabulary show off challenge. Let the two students study the same page from the dictionary for two to five minutes and then close the book. Students then take turns bidding on how many vocabulary words they can remember from the page by saying, “I can name _____ words.” Each turn, the player must outbid his opponent by at least one word every time they bid. Once a student thinks he cannot top his opponent’s bid, he says, “Name them.” The student must then name at least as many objects as he bid. For example, if a student said he could name 10 words on a given page, he will have to put his money where his mouth is and name at least that many words without making a mistake. If he can, his team scores one point. If he cannot, the other team scores a point.
Picture dictionaries are great in the ESL classroom, and you can use them with you students no matter what their level.
Don’t let this resource go to waste.
Do you have other activities you do with a picture dictionary? Share your ideas in the comments below!