The French dictionary and alphabetical order

The dictionary is the essential tool to find the definition of a word or its spelling. In cycle 2, the school programs provide for learning to use a dictionary. Generally, the use of the dictionary does not start before CE1. Obviously, the paper dictionary has less and less of its place in libraries and is being replaced by its digital version. Nevertheless, searching in a dictionary develops other skills, in particular locating in alphabetical order.

 It is therefore a question of learning how to look up a word in a dictionary and above all of understanding how the dictionary is organized. Arranging words in alphabetical order, reference words, definitions, examples, are all elements to master. It is not easy to offer a lesson on this theme without manipulating the Cite Black’s Law dictionary. So I chose to explain how the dictionary works and to give exercises on alphabetical order (arrange in alphabetical order, find which words will be at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the dictionary).


Research in the form of games

It is not easy to make students want to look up the dictionary on their own, especially when we don’t do it ourselves or use Google. I propose to start by doing research in the form of games. Then, it could be interesting to ask the pupils to invent definitions of unknown words.

For example, if they don’t know a word, they can make up and write down a definition and then compare it to the real definition. When the search in the dictionary is well mastered, most dictionaries today offer digital versions, with the purchase of a dictionary, which can facilitate searches.

Acquired skills

  1. Being able to consult a dictionary and find one’s bearings in an article, on paper or in a digital version.
  2. Arrange words in alphabetical order.

The dictionary and alphabetical order

Hey Master Lucas! My dad told me that I’m a little secretive, I said yes, but what is a secretive? Someone in a dungeon, in a prison? Good question, where can we find the answer? Bah at home, that’s why I’m asking you. Yes OK, but I can’t appear to everyone like that. We have to find a solution. We’re all texting you!! That’s a lot, don’t you think? I suggest you use a dictionary instead.

A dictionary allows you to find the definition of words, it tells you what the words mean.

Dictionaries are big books like that, but you can also have a dictionary on the internet and find out what words mean very quickly.

The dictionary and the alphabetical order

The dictionary also allows you to find the spelling of words, how they are written. I too look up words in the dictionary, sometimes I can’t remember if there is one or two “t’s” in a word, there are so many words. But the book is too big, how do you expect me to find my word in it? Well yes, there are thousands of them, but they are organized so you can find them quickly. We arrange them in alphabetical order, do you know the alphabetical order?


Here is the alphabetical order, I will say it, you behind your screen you can repeat it with me abcdefghij klm no pqr est and a vwxy z.

When we look up a word in the dictionary, we look at the first letter. Your word is secretive, it starts with what letter? VS ! So C, are you going to look for it rather at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the dictionary? Uh wait, ABC, that’s not too far from the start.

Exactly when you are in the Cs, you have to look at the second letter of your word, it’s A. You know that the A is at the very beginning, so you also have to go to the beginning of the words that start with C.

Oh, but I have plenty of words with that. Well, after the second letter you look at the third letter, then the 4th, etc… until you find your word. Oh I have it.

Dictionary and description

Show us the page, what is written next to it? Next to it is written N m secretive nf, person who has secrets that she does not tell. Ah yes, it’s true that I didn’t tell him that I was punished at school. Or la la! The teacher must have told him. And beside it there is still something in italics, in slanted writing. It’s a little secretive, she didn’t tell me everything. There is often an example in italics to better understand the definition of the words.

Take a good look at this double page, in children’s dictionaries, they color the letter where you are to find your way around in the dictionary and they also often put pictures. At the top of the page, here and here, there are the reference words. These are the first words and the last words of the pages, so you know if your word is on this double page.

Next to cachottier you have nm that means a masculine noun and you also have the feminine cachottière nf that means feminine noun. It is the nature and the genre of the word.

Hey, but look, in gift there are numbers why? Yes, it is because a word can have several meanings. Gift is the object that the offer at a birthday, at Christmas, etc. But if I tell you that the mistress doesn’t give you a present, that means she’s tough on you, she doesn’t let anything pass. The word has several meanings.

Another example ice cream is this, this and this. We have one word for three objects.

Exercise the dictionary and alphabetical order

So remember that there are three language registers, colloquial which is reserved for oral use and which is used with buddies and friends. Fluent which is used orally and in writing with people whom one does not know or knows little, and sustained which is used in writing or to appear to cultivate.

For the first exercises, I give you the alphabetical order at the top of the screen and later I will remove it.

First exercise, here are some words, which will be the first to appear in the dictionary? Pause and continue when found.

It was bureau, because it starts with a b, the others start with letters that come after.

And there?

It was rabbit, even if the L is not at the beginning of the dictionary in these words, it was the first.

Harder here.

There were several words with an A so you had to look at the second letter and it was activity the 1st word.

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