Dictionary games

WOULD a dictionary be used only to check new words? If so, the motivation can be quite low to use it regularly as a prime language learning resource. In one instance, a teacher advised a student whose work was riddled with spelling errors and word misuse to consult a dictionary whenever in doubt. The student's astonishing reply: "But professor, I'm never in doubt."

Yes, this true story is rather amusing if we ignore the serious implications for language improvement. So how else can we help to make it a treasured resource, and avoid it gathering dust on the shelf?

Make it fun

Associate the dictionary with fun and play. There are a number of games that require the use of a dictionary as an arbiter of spelling or meaning. Aside that, the dictionary in itself can be a source of games. In essence, we are just using the proven method of learning through play. Some games using dictionaries

Game 1 - two persons
Each child has a dictionary. The parent randomly chooses a word and the children race to find it in their dictionaries. The first child to find it reads out the definition. They then get to chose the next word to search for!; This is great fun and creates real competition between the children to be the first to find the word. Prizes can also be awarded. It’s a rather enjoyable way of getting children to familarise themsevles with dictionaries.

Game 2 - two persons
Two children or a parent and child play this game. One has the dictionary and the other says a page (and column, if relevant), and a number of words to count down from the top of the page. The first person reads out the word and the second person has to say its meaning. Then they swap

Game 3 - multi-player
The parent/leader or child looks through a dictionary for a difficult word. It would definitely help if you can be sure no one in the game knows the meaning of the word. Write the word on the white-board. Each child writes their guess concerning the word's meaning on a slip of paper. Each student's guess must be anonymous. The slips of paper are handed to the parent/leader, who reads out the anonymous 'definitions'. The person whose guess is most similar to the dictionary definition wins. As this is a many-player game, it is a natural winner for parties. Much entertainment can be derived with prizes being awarded for the funniest definition.