Picture Dictionary: Introduction for Activity Authors


Inspired by traditional flashcards and vocabulary lists, Picture Dictionary expands instructors' and students' options for presenting and learning vocabulary. A Picture Dictionary activity contains a collection of words, which can be sorted and displayed in various meaningful ways. Each word entry may contain the word written in the target language and in translation, as well as an image, audio clips, samples of the word used in context, and other linguistic information such as gender or part of speech. Students can browse through the entries or take a self-quiz using a variety of prompts, including visual, lexical, auditory, or contextual.

Picture Dictionary's flexible use of images, audio clips, contextual examples, and dialogue fragments accommodates a multiplicity of learning styles, from the auditory to the conceptual to the visual learner. Given the possibilities for searching and browsing a Picture Dictionary-alphabetically, topically, by parts of speech, or by order presented in a textbook-the instructor can assign a variety of vocabulary assignments that structure students' study of vocabulary.

Creating a Picture Dictionary

The process of developing a Picture Dictionary takes an average of one month, though it can take much less or much more time depending on the complexity of the activity; the process becomes much faster and easier with a little practice.

Before you begin, think through how you will use the materials with your students. What words will you include? Some instructors choose all vocabulary introduced in a first- or second-year course. Others, however, have selected content for other purposes, such as one activity that incorporated a collection of words designed to introduce the entire phonetic system of the Korean language.

Think, too, about how you will divide the words into categories. You can create list groups such as “Themes,” “Parts of Speech,” or “Chapters.” Each list group contains multiple lists. For example, the “Themes” list group might contain such lists as “Animals,” “Clothing,” or “Food”; or, the “Chapters” list group might contain lists called “Chapter 1,” “Chapter 2,” and so on. Since each word entry can be associated with multiple lists, you can create an activity that students can approach from more than one perspective-browsing through all the nouns, taking a self-quiz on all the words in Chapter 1, reviewing all the food words, etc.

You may wish to start by listing the words you want to use in the activity in a spreadsheet. (Usually this will be several hundred words, though more or less could be appropriate depending on the pedagogical intention.) Include in your spreadsheet the part of speech or other categories into which you will organize your word entries, as well as any other text you have decided to associate with each word entry, such as a sample sentence, synonyms, or usage notes.

Next, think through what media you will include in your activity. If you will be using images, where will you get them? Is it important to you to have culturally specific images, or will more generic clip-art or line drawings suffice? Consider copyright and intellectual property limitations: using photos you have taken yourself or images from a royalty free collection will make it easier to share your activity with others and use for a longer period of time than if you use images from the web or other publications without obtaining permission. You may also wish to include audio clips in your activity, such as a recording of the word articulated by one or more speakers, the word spoken slowly, or the word being used in context or in a sample sentence. If you plan carefully, you can record your audio materials in the most efficient order to minimize later editing. Once you have your image and audio files ready, you may wish to enter the file names in your spreadsheet to keep track of which files go with which words. Your spreadsheet is also a good place to keep track of any associated copyright information, such as permission you have obtained or the name of the sources from which you obtained materials so you can include a proper citation in your published activity.

Finally, after saving your image and audio files to a web server, you are ready to assemble the parts of your activity using the Picture Dictionary template. You may wish to practice with the online tutorial to get the hang of entering words and associating media files with them. Entering all this text into the template can be time-consuming; if you are working with a programmer or system administrator, he or she may be able to help you by importing some of the content from your spreadsheet directly into the template's database. Of course you don't have to wait until the entire activity is complete before sharing it with your students; you may wish to publish one chapter or unit at a time, or you may wish to publish the activity with all word entries included but add more images or audio at a later time.

Sharing your Picture Dictionary

When you introduce your Picture Dictionary activity to your students, take some time during class to show them how you expect them to use it. Do you want them to view images first and try to think of the target language term? Do you want them to use this tool as a way to learn new words, to quiz themselves on words they have learned, to practice listening skills by playing audio first, or a combination of these things? What choices do they have to make when deciding to quiz themselves? Though the activity you have created will be easy to use from a technical perspective, students may require some guidance in how to incorporate such a tool into their own language study habits, just as they might to make efficient use of a traditional, printed dictionary. (And they might learn something new about good language study habits in the process!) Demonstrating the tool in class is also a good way to teach common dictionary abbreviations, such as those for part of speech or gender.

If other instructors will also be using your activity, be sure to show them what led you to make various design choices so they understand how the activity was meant to work and how they can explain it to their students. You can show them how your Picture Dictionary activity tightens students' associations between visuals, word text, sound, lexical meaning, and contextual meaning, through multiple modes of cognition: non-verbal and verbal visual, auditory, and oral.


© 2005 Yale University Center for Language Study. All rights reserved.
~ Certifying Authority: Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl