The start to the school year for newcomer ELLs can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking. It is our job to set them up with tools to help them feel comfortable exploring a new language in a totally new environment. One of the most powerful tools you can provide a new ELL student is a picture dictionary.
Picture dictionaries are a powerful tool for new ELLs for these reasons:
CONNECT WORDS TO MEANINGS:
Picture dictionaries allow students to make a connection from a new written word to its meaning through an image, or visual.
With clear categories, and a table of contents, it is easy for ELLs to navigate a picture dictionary to find the word(s) they need.
COMMUNICATION WITH ZERO LANGUAGE:
With picture dictionaries, students are easily able to communicate in writing or orally with no language at all. If students need to refer to something in writing, the word is right there for them. If students need to refer to something orally, they can point to the picture.
SENSE OF SECURITY:
Although some ELLs jump right into a new school comfortably, for the most part this isn’t the norm. Without any way to communicate their thoughts, most ELLs will experience a silent period in school. During this time, they may feel scared or embarrassed to make a mistake, so they remain quiet. Having tools that allow new ELLs to get across their needs non-verbally gives them a sense of security in going about their school day.
ALLOWS STUDENTS TO MAKE CONNECTIONS:
By breaking up new vocabulary words into themes, it allows students to make connections between words within a theme. This is much more effective than giving students a list of random vocabulary words that have no links to each other.
ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THEIR LEARNING:
Having a picture dictionary opens the door for students to work independently on tasks. This could be for vocabulary activities specific to the words in the picture dictionary. It could also be using words from a picture dictionary in a writing task totally unrelated to the words specifically, such as writing about their previous school or things they like to do.
If a student is working independently using a picture dictionary, it can be very helpful to have the audio to take it even a step further for new ELLs’ understanding. These thematic vocabulary posters (full page Picture Dictionary pages) come with audio on the digital, Google Slides, version.
Do you need a Picture Dictionary for your new ELLs? Check out:
Looking for more tips for teaching English Language Learners? Read about how to support ELLs in content areas classes.