Earlier this year, we took our three kids on their very first plane rides – to Tucson, Arizona! My husband and I moved down to Tucson from Iowa several years ago. He did his intern year of his medical residency, and I taught second grade in a Spanish immersion program. When we moved back to the Midwest, I was pregnant with our first child, and we hadn’t been back to Tucson since!
I loved going back to show my kids the school where I taught, Daddy’s hospital, and where we lived. We went to all our favorite restaurants (mostly amazing Mexican food!), and it was the first time my kids were really surrounded by Spanish. Oh how I miss seeing and hearing so much Spanish everywhere!
But it was the most amazing trip because I got to see the desert through my kids’ eyes. They’ve never left the lakes, corn fields, snow, and tall trees of the Midwest! We went on hikes exploring the incredible mountains, learned names for all the different cacti, and got to see so many new and exciting desert animals. There was so much language learning going on every day – in English and in Spanish!
There’s nothing like learning authentic, new vocabulary for a trip or a special topic when you really get to go to the desert or on a field trip. Or perhaps you get to have a guest speaker in your classroom, or even learn from a great new book.
So I created a bilingual picture dictionary for my own kids to record some of their new vocabulary words and they’ve been having so much fun adding to them and using them when they read.
With my first and second graders, we collected new words in bilingual picture dictionaries throughout the year (a simpler version I also created). I would explicitly teach our new words each week, which included several high frequency words, phonics skill words, and “amazing words” (longer, more complex words from our main story or poem of the week). We saw or drew pictures of the words, chanted their letters, made up actions, and would practice them throughout the week.
At the end of the week I would add a few new words to our dictionaries with students in their small groups. It was a wonderful tool for differentiation. Some students wrote down new high frequency words. Others wrote down phonics skill words, or even our harder “amazing words” from our stories. Some wrote the words and drew a picture, others could write a sentence using the new word, or tell me synonyms or antonyms.
When we had independent reading time, students could choose to get out the bilingual dictionaries to read and review their words. I also taught students they could get them out when writing if they needed to look back to find just the right word or remember how to spell it. And what I loved was that it became sort of an interactive notebook that students used all year, and then parents got to see them at the end of the school year!
Grab the one I made in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It includes two different cover options to choose from, and three different styles of dictionary paper.
- One style has space for students to input 2 new words and pictures
- Another has space for 3 new words and pictures
- The last has space for 2 words along with their parts of speech and sentences.
Choose one or use them all! Or simply grab any notebook and let your child or students start collecting their new vocabulary words. Pick a few to several new words each week. It will be so fun to see their word learning!
Here’s the link again to my bilingual picture dictionary.
Read more here about effective vocabulary instruction for language learners, including using dictionaries, modeling with pictures, using learned words in sentences, and practicing with synonyms and antonyms.
You may also enjoy downloading my FREE beginning reading strategy printable for parents and teachers.