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Building Literacy Skills with Martin's Picture Dictionary

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

A picture dictionary is a vital learning tool for any special education or mainstream class teacher. This version by ERA publications has great visuals to help link language learning and pictures, and can assist phonics instruction or sight vocabulary / whole word literacy methods.

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    What is It?

    A picture dictionary is like a regular dictionary, except that each word is accompanied by a picture. This means that a learner who cannot yet manage to read the text in a standard dictionary is still able to do all those 'dictionary' tasks; things like looking up an unknown word, checking the spelling of a word or finding out the meaning of a word.

    For many students who are beginning readers, a picture dictionary is a valuable tool. It helps guide them through the learning process and keeps them on task and motivated. With a standard dictionary, it is all too easy for students to become frustrated and turned off the task when they discover that the very thing they are trying to achieve (looking up the spelling of a word) is impossible because they cannot yet spell the word! A self-fulfilling prophesy if ever there was one!

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    How Good is It?

    A picture dictionary allows visual learners to find words, check on unknown words and spellcheck written words. For many students, a picture dictionary is a great tool for learning words and beginning the reading process.

    Martin's Picture Dictionary ISBN 9781741204247 is affordable for teachers, students, parents and for anyone looking to add a new tool of learning for students struggling to understand literacy and its application in the classroom and in life.

    The picture dictionary can be used to enhance the learning experience for students struggling to read one word or a whole book. Students are learning new words daily, so the next time you say "Go look it up," will have new meaning when a student picks up the picture dictionary.

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    Martin's Picture Dictionary

    Martin's Picture Dictionary is easy for students with limited literacy, reading difficulties or who are ESL students to manage. It is well structured and planned, and the organisation is clear and very logical. Words are grouped into sections, for example:

    • Family
    • At Home / House
    • Time - Seasons
    • Transport and travel
    • Opposites
    • The Doctor
    • Words - punctuation

    Some sections have only a single page, while others are broken into sub-headings.

    The layout of the pages is ideal for a student with reading difficulties, and particularly for those who struggle to remain focused on visual detail on a page. The background is white, and there is sufficient white space on each page surrounding the pictures to make them easy to view. The text is large and clear, and easy for students with limited visual skills to manage.

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    Using the Dictionary

    Martin's Picture Dictionary can be used in many ways. It is the dictionary which is referred to through the 'Step Beyond English A' book (also by ERA publications). It can also be used as a stand alone picture dictionary. Students in a mainstream or special education class could use the picture dictionary to:

    • find a page number for a given word using the index of words.
    • practise reading and writing words under a particular topic.
    • take charge of their own learning by having a copy of the picture dictionary each and being encouraged to use it as a daily learning tool to build their own reading and writing skills.
    • as a supplement to ESL class activities.
    • as a back up to phonics instruction or sight vocabulary words (flash cards, Magic 100 words etc).
    • as a way of learning the 'overseas' way of saying a word (many pictures in the picture dictionary have two words accompanying them in cases where there is a US and British / Australian version possible eg. litre / pint).
    • to make their own word lists or mind maps on set topics or themes.
    • as the basis for creating their own in-class dictionary for the classroom library.