4th Grade - Using A Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia And Online Information

Research and Technology
Using a dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia and online information
Use various reference materials (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus, card catalog, encyclopedia, online information) as an aid to writing. (research - technology)
The ability to use reference materials in various forms (e.g. books and computer technology) to guide, supplement, and enhance (make stronger) writing and research.

Sample Problems


What is a reference? (a source of information)


What is a dictionary? (a book that lists all recognized words of a language in alphabetical order)


What is a thesaurus? (a book that lists word groups related in meaning – including synonyms and antonyms)


What is a card catalog? (it serves as an index – usually of a library – of all the books or materials available; each has its own card; however, nowadays all of this information is usually online)


What is an encyclopedia? (a work that comprehensively lists information in many areas of knowledge or specialized information in certain areas)

Learning Tips


A trip to a local library is essential in order to see the multitude of resources (e.g. different version, kinds, sizes, etc. of reference books) available. If this is absolutely not possible, please visit the Los Angeles Public Library’s Kids Path online site at http://www.lapl.org/kidspath/, which is full of games, sites, books, and even a separate catalog for kids!


Using a dictionary (preferable an actual book but if one isn’t immediately available, the child may use and online dictionary such as http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary), give the child a word to look up and time them to see how long it takes to find the word. As they practice using the resource, they will get better and better at internalizing the alphabetization (A-B-C order).


Practice using the thesaurus in Microsoft Word or other writing applications. Either right click on a word you would like to replace with another word and scroll down to synonyms, or go to Tools Language Thesaurus to see suggestions. You can also use the shortcut keys Shift + F7.


If you have a set of encyclopedias available, this is preferable. If not, imagine a set of 15 books with this alphabetical breakdown:

1 = A – Azt 9 = Mab – Mor

2 = Baa – Cam 10 = Mos – Pat

3 = Can – Col 11 = Pau – Red

4 = Com – Dyn 12 = Ref – Sep

5 = Ead – Fre 13 = Seq – The

6 = Fri – Hoh 14 = Thi – Zwi

7 = Hol – Jub 15 = Index

8 = Jud – Lyo

Then ask the child to determine what book they would find information on certain topics in. They can use the index (#15) or look at the alphabetical breakdown labels. Some sets of encyclopedias won’t have the information you’re looking for, which is why the index can be a great tool.


cheetahs = #3 licorice = #8

Comanche Indians = #4 zebras = #14

pita bread = #11 or #2 Socrates = #13


Practice using several online search engines, such as:






[use the same examples from Learning Tip #4 or suggest things such as names, places, etc. to look up]

Online Resources

Extra Help Problems


Where can you access reference materials? (online and in libraries)


How can you determine whether a resource is reliable, or dependable? (from its source, publisher and/or author, and date)


How do you find words in a dictionary? (they are listed in exact alphabetical order, from A to Z – you have to look at the first letter, then the second letter, and so on until you find the word)


How do you find words in a thesaurus? (they are usually listed in alphabetical order, from A to Z)


How do you know if a word in the thesaurus fits in your sentence? (you have to substitute it and make sure it still makes sense in context)


When using a thesaurus to replace a word, do you always have to pick the longer, more complex word? (no, sometimes those words don’t make sense)


When should you use a thesaurus? (when you’re stuck and can’t think of a word or would like to find a better word to make your writing more powerful)


What is another way to use a thesaurus? (similar to a dictionary – use it to determine the meaning of the related word(s) or concept(s))


What can an encyclopedia be used for? (to find various information for a report about a specific topic)


What can online search engines be used for? (to find many, varied resources on a certain topic)


What resource would you use to find the definition of a word? (dictionary)


What resource would you use to find the synonym of a word? (thesaurus)


What resource would you use to find information on a particular topic? (encyclopedia or online resources)


What resource would you use to conduct a search for a research topic? (search engine)


What resource would you use to conduct a search for a research topic? (library catalog)


What resource would you use to find the antonym of a word? (thesaurus)



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