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Visual Dictionary

Page from a dictionary

Page from a dictionary (blackwaterimages, iStockphoto)

Page from a dictionary

Page from a dictionary (blackwaterimages, iStockphoto)


This strategy helps students develop a deeper understanding of new words or concepts.

Why use it?

  • To support critical thinking
  • To help students learn new words and concepts
  • To help students make connections to new words and concepts

Tips for success

  • Encourage students to look up the definitions of unfamiliar terms in a physical or online dictionary or using class materials. 
  • Complete a Visual Dictionary Organizer as a class before students complete one on their own. 
  • Circulate and check students’ understanding of new words and concepts. Address any misconceptions. 

How do I use it?

  • Students work with a partner or in small groups to construct a shared understanding of a concept or word using the Visual Dictionary Organizer reproducible. 
    • Upper left quadrant – identify the word or concept 
    • Upper right quadrant – create a visual representation to illustrate understanding 
    • Lower left quadrant –identify a personal connection to the concept or word – a connection that will help anchor the meaning for learners 
    • Lower right quadrant – create a definition of the word or concept in learners’ own words 


  • Students could keep their Visual Dictionary Organizers in an accessible location such as a binder or folder to return and add to in the future. 
  • Students could use this as a review game with words or concepts that they are familiar with. Students could fill out only 1 or 2 of the boxes and leave off the word. Other students could then guess the word or concept.

Create Your Own


Reading Rockets. (n.d.). Word Maps.