Using a dictionary

Home learning focus

To revise what alphabetical order is and learn how to use a dictionary.

This lesson includes:

  • one video to help you revise alphabetical order

  • one video to show you how to use a dictionary

  • three activities


A dictionary is a list of words or phrases and their definitions (what they mean).

Dictionaries are arranged in alphabetical order.

They help you to spell or understand any new words, so are a fantastic tool to use to improve your English skills.

Before we look at dictionaries in more detail, let’s revise what alphabetical order means.

Revise how alphabetical order works.

Now watch this short clip to see how to use a dictionary to look up an unfamiliar word.

Learn how to use a dictionary.

In an English dictionary you'll find words beginning with a at the front and z at the back.

There are lots of words in the English language which begin with a so it's not just the first letter that is important. Words are organised alphabetically according to the following letters in a word too.

For example: ‘Ankle’ will come before ‘ant’.

  • The first two letters of both words are the same
    (a and n).

  • The third letters are different though (k and t).

  • The letter k comes before t in the alphabet, so you'll find 'ankle' before 'ant' in the dictionary.

To find the word ‘lion’ in the dictionary, start by finding words beginning with ‘l’, then ‘li’, then ‘lio’ until you eventually narrow it down to ‘lion’.


You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Complete these two short activities.

  1. Drag the words so they are in alphabetical order.
  1. Fill in the gaps in the sentences about dictionaries.

Activity 2

Complete the ‘Order, order …’ activity sheet. You will need paper and a pen to write down your answers.

Top tip!

  • It might help to write the alphabet out to remind you of the order of the letters.

  • If you are unsure about what any words mean, use a dictionary or an online dictionary to find the words and copy out the definitions.

Order, order... activity sheet

Activity 3

Look at the list of words below. You might know some of them already.

Write down each word then look up what they mean using a dictionary or online dictionary. Copy out the definition.

Top tip!

There may be more than one definition for each word. Choose the one that makes most sense to you.

  1. Century

  2. Consider

  3. Occasion

  4. Possess

  5. Reign

  6. Various

Now choose three of the words and use each one correctly in a sentence.

For example: The castle had been standing for well over a century.

Where next?

In this lesson you have revised alphabetical order and learnt how to use a dictionary.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you use reference tools.

There's more to learn

More lessons for Year 3 and P4
More from KS2 English
KS2 English
Bitesize games
Practice using dictionaries
Finding the right dictionary for your child