Part of my school’s Professional Development Plan (PDP) for teachers deals with the instruction of vocabulary. We’ve been using the same rubric for years, and I’ve expressed my opinion about this rubric, suggesting that it’s limiting and in time, makes instruction boring. I’ve been asked to provide training to the teachers on ways to extend vocabulary instruction to reengage students in word learning.
One requirement of the rubric that I have had difficulty with is providing students with a dictionary definition of the target words. I teach struggling readers, most of whom struggle because they’re either second language learners or they lack the vocabulary to comprehend grade level materials. Providing my students with dictionary definitions has, in the past, only served to confuse them.
In the last few days, I’ve come across two dictionaries that I think provide more ELL and student-friendly definitions.
The first is the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online. One feature that the LDOCE boasts is that the definitions use 2000 common words, making it easier for those with limited vocabularies to understand definitions. When searching for a word, the definitions are separated into usages, which adds to its ease of use.
As with many services out there, there’s an app for that. It’s $29.99 in the iTunes app store. An advantage of the app is it can be used without being connected to a network (it’s a large download), however, network access is necessary to listen to the audio files of words and examples.
The second dictionary I’ve found is the English Cobuild Dictionary, which I haven’t spent much time with as of yet. A post on that dictionary is coming soon.