Showing posts with label dictionary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dictionary. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

APPtivity of the Day - Using Dictionaries in the Classroom

Sometimes we think that we can only schedule to use the iPads when we feel confident enough, have practiced many times how to open, close, use the features in certain apps. We practice so much that we give up as insecurity increases exponentially when we give a thought about the students we have, the little time we have in our schedules, added to the responsibility of those devices in nervous hands.


Ruben Puentedura´s model for tech incorporation can be a relief for teachers in the sense that it is OK to start with substitution practices that enhance the learning experience towards a more informed and bold move towards transformative uses of tech in the classroom.

So, instead of the distress of considering tech possibilities and never having the fearlessness to try it, start with a fun and very simple activity and then move on to more challenging activities. 

Did you know that in our CTJ iPads we have fantastic dictionaries you can use with your groups?
Here are some:

The first one on the list (LDOCE 5) is an expensive paid app which is worth every penny for the quality of its digital version - Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 5th Edition. 

You can´t imagine how much fun my teen students have had with this app. We searched for some words they were studying, I asked them to check the pronunciation of American x British English and to see if there was any relevant difference. They could see the words in use, including collocations and idiomatic expressions. 
The activity was nothing new, but the teens spent some minutes having fun with the language and exploring the possibilities of use. We then played a game in which I´d say the word, they needed to check the meaning and come up with an example different from the dictionary´s. 
Later in the semester, when they had to write paragraphs, they asked me if they could look up for synonyms in the dictionary! 

Now, if it worked with a rambunctious group of teens, imagine exploring the wonders of the dictionary use with our adult groups! You could explore high frequency words (identified in red in the app); you could have a treasure hunt, pronunciation work, definition game. The world of possibilities using digital dictionaries in class is simply limitless...In addition to making your lessons more engaging, your students will start noticing the possibilities of the devices they use in their daily lives to learn English. 

So, the first part of your tech integration ladder is done: substitution activities using a dictionary app. 
Ready for the challenge?
What kinds of activities with dictionaries do you envision with your groups?
Let us know when you plan a lesson using the dictionary apps and what the outcomes were. 

Tip: is a very good free app that your students can download to their smartphones and tablets.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Dreaded "D" Word

Dictionaries have always been part of the language classroom – even if only as background props used by teachers and students when an unknown word crops up. However, despite their usefulness, they are seldom allowed to take center stage.

WebWords 001For many teachers and students, the idea of using monolingual learners’ dictionaries to supplement the staple diet of every class sounds unappealing. This is partly due to teachers’ ignorance of the strategies they can employ to help their learners build dictionary skills and partly due to students’ lack of ability to use dictionaries appropriately.

In this post, we will consider some of the reasons teachers should integrate dictionary work into their classes, and take a look at some possible class activities.

Why should we use dictionaries?

Dictionaries provide not only definitions of words, but also phonemic transcriptions. These are especially useful given the confusing nature of English spelling, which often
misleads us as to how words should be pronounced (consider, for instance, though, trough and thought).

Another reason is that by reading through the example sentences illustrating how words are commonly used, students are exposed to natural-sounding ways of using new input, to words and phrases that usually co-occur with the headword, and to the grammatical patterns a word can take. An interesting side-effect of this is that users can acquire the ability to self-correct once they realize how much potential there is to be exploited in dictionary examples.

In addition, building dictionary skills leads students towards autonomy, thereby giving them the chance to work independently, especially in situations where this is crucial (e.g. when writing a business email to a foreign colleague).

Teachers often forget that one’s first encounter with a monolingual dictionary can be very daunting and that learners may need time to become comfortable with definitions written in the target language. However, integrating continual dictionary work into your classes should help your students overcome their initial reservations.

Ideas for using dictionaries

1 Elicit the meanings and pronunciation of new words from the students. When no one can provide these, have one or two students look up the words in the dictionary. Encourage them to help each other with phonemic transcriptions. Point out the example sentences and how the students can use them as a way of increasing their access to how words are used – by learning collocates, grammatical patterns, etc.

2 Before a test, or after the students have worked intensively on a unit or two, split the class into small groups. Have each group pick out a few words from each unit and look up how they’re transcribed phonemically. They then give these transcriptions to the other groups, who must write the words in ordinary spelling.
Note: Tell the students which pages of the coursebook each group will cover so that they don’t pick out the same words. Extend this activity by having the students work on meaning and collocations, too.

3 Give the students definitions of new words on small cards and ask them to work out what words are being defined. Then hand out cards with example sentences of the words and get the students to match the sentences to the definitions.

4 Write a couple of new words in phonemic script on the board. Split the class into two groups and get them to take turns trying to guess how the words are pronounced. Award a point for each correct answer.

5 Prepare a quiz with mistakes your students have made, e.g. incorrect use of dependent prepositions, awkward collocations, etc. Using dictionaries, the students work together to correct the errors.

6 Prepare a quiz with useful collocations which you think your students might not know. Gap example sentences from the dictionary, leaving only the headword. Students then have to look up the headwords to find out what the collocations are, e.g.:
Managers are __________ aware of the need to provide new staff with appropriate support. (Answer: acutely aware)

7 When students are confused about a pair of words, ask them to look both words up in the dictionary and find the difference between them. This works with words which have similar meanings (e.g. say and tell), those that students have difficulty pronouncing accurately (e.g. ship and sheep) and those that are pronounced the same (e.g. won and one).

8 Split the class into two teams. Explain that you will dictate some words, but that you will also mispronounce some of them. If the students are not sure whether a word was pronounced correctly or not, they look it up in the dictionary. Points are awarded for each (first) correct answer.

9 Tell the students that you are going to dictate a number of sentences, but you will hum some words in each sentence. (Make sure all the words you hum are the same part of speech, i.e. all prepositions, verbs, nouns, etc.) The students write down the complete sentences, including the missing words. They then check their answers in pairs, by looking up the appropriate dictionary entries.
Note: Students are often not aware of how to learn how to use prepositions accurately. This can be a useful strategy to help them understand that they can use a dictionary whenever they are not sure which preposition to use.

10 To teach students how to make their writing more “colorful”, pick out some sentences from their essays that make little use of interesting adjectives or adverbs. Get them to work together, using dictionaries, to make their writing more vivid by adding adjective + noun, adverb + adjective or adverb + verb couplings. For example, they can rewrite The girl was beautiful as The girl was remarkably beautiful.

Many teachers and students do not feel comfortable using dictionaries, and for this reason many of the activities proposed here aim at building dictionary skills without necessarily making use of dictionaries proper. However, it is my firm belief that students should be told about the important role dictionaries can play in their learning process. By gradually introducing our students to dictionary skill-building tasks such as these, we can make them feel more at ease with the dreaded “d” word – as well as making the task much lighter and more appealing to everyone involved.

Online resources:

Learners’ dictionaries

ELTChat summary on how to integrate dictionary work into classes

* This post was originally published in issue 80 of English Teaching Professional.