Teaching Strategy

Personal Picture Dictionary

Word Work
Grade Level


A personal picture dictionary is an individual vocabulary and spelling resource students make themselves.


During or after reading.


The strategy ensures students take ownership of their learning. They can reference this resource when reading, writing and speaking throughout all five phases of the Integrated Learning Plan.


  1. Choose your vocabulary words.
  2. Prompt students to write each word in a different color in their personal picture dictionary notebook.
  3. Have students say each word out loud.
  4. Have students clap the syllables of each word as the group says it aloud.
  5. Ask students to close their eyes and visualize the beginning, middle and ending chunks of the word.
  6. Reread the text aloud, and ask students to use context, roots and affixes, and word relationships to deduce the word's definition. When context alone will not suffice, have students use dictionaries. 
  7. Have them write the correct definition in their own words in their personal picture dictionary notebook.
  8. Prompt students to draw a picture representing the word.
  9. Repeat for the remaining words in the list.
  10. Have students keep and add to their personal picture dictionaries cumulatively over the course of reading several central texts.


English language learners:

The modifications for this strategy are similar to those provided for the word wall strategy. A personal picture dictionary can also be grouped by themes (discussed in the concept sort strategy), which supports understanding of the relationships between new words.

Connections to anti-bias Education:

Personal picture dictionaries indicate to students which vocabulary you consider worth learning. Giving them a tool for quick access to diversity-related vocabulary makes your classroom a safe place for students to talk about personal or controversial topics.

Sample personal picture dictionary:

Word Work Strategy
Add to an Existing Learning Plan
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