Choosing the Best Dictionary for Students

Selecting the best dictionary for your students can make all the difference. As parents and teachers, we know the value of reference books like the dictionary and the thesaurus. These reference books help us to understand what we read, build our vocabulary, and improve our writing skills.

As a teacher, I have a variety of dictionaries for my students, you know, the typical Webster’s Dictionary that I used when I was in school, the Thorndike–Barnhart Dictionary that my husband used when he was in school, and a variety of pocket-sized dictionaries. Because I had a wide variety, I never gave much thought to them until I had a student named Mel.

The Right Dictionary Can Be Life-Changing

My student, Mel, asked me what a particular word meant. Since she was in the 6th grade, I wanted her to become more self-sufficient, so I told her she could look it up in the dictionary. Just the mention of the word dictionary made her whole body stiffen up. I had never before seen that kind of reaction! It was like she had a phobia against dictionaries.

I asked her if she knew how to use a dictionary, and she said yes. Then she showed me her problem. She looked up her word and read the definition, but didn’t understand 4 of the words in the definition. Then she had to look those words up and again, she didn’t know what several words in those definitions meant. No wonder she ‘hated’ looking up words in the dictionary!

Best DictionarySo, I reached for my newest dictionary, the Longman Dictionary of American English. I heard about this dictionary at a seminar I had attended and thought I’d get one to add to my collection. So, we looked up her original word in it. Lo and behold, the definition was written in a way that she could understand the meaning. Such a difference. This was life-changing for her!

We Already Have 10 Dictionaries…

About a month later, Anne came in to pick up her daughter Katie from our learning center. We got to talking, and she told me how frustrated she was with Katie looking up her weekly spelling words. I mentioned the Longman dictionary to her. She said, “We have at least 10 dictionaries at home. We even have the giant dictionary that libraries have. I don’t need another one!” I said, “Anne, does Katie understand the definitions when she looks them up?” She said no and I replied, “So what good are your current dictionaries then?”

I then showed both Anne and Katie the Longman dictionary. The definitions were easy to understand. The print was a bit bigger, and there were examples of using the words in sentences. A huge difference! Ultimately, Anne got the new dictionary. Several weeks later Anne thanked me profusely for the recommendation, as Katie didn’t have any more trouble with looking up her spelling words.

Example of Two Different Dictionaries

Traditional Dictionary Definition:


  1. capable of being borne or endured
    tolerable pain
  2. moderately good or agreeable (passable)
    tolerable singing voice

Longman Dictionary Definition:


  1. something that is tolerable is not very good, but you are able to accept it
    The apartment is really too small, but it’s tolerable for the time being.
  2. unpleasant or painful and only just able to be accepted
    The heat in this room is barely tolerable.

Best DictionaryYou can see why the Longman Dictionary of American English is our favorite dictionary for both students and adults. It gives clear and simple definitions that anyone can understand. The font and type in the book are also easier to read than many dictionaries. Having a dictionary on hand can be crucial for your kids as they are in school.

Get the Longman Dictionary on Amazon

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.


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