Publication Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)

First Advisor

Diane Larsen Freeman


Classroom teachers are often required to define words for their students, yet few have any training in how to do so. With proper training, however, classroom teachers are able to provide their students with definitions superior to those in any dictionary because they are uniquely able to determine what information the student needs and how to convey it in a way that the student can understand. Without principles and techniques for defining words, however, teachers will find it difficult to select appropriate content for their definitions and present it in ways that are comprehensible and useful to their students.

The leading learner’s dictionaries contain principles and techniques that teachers can apply in the classroom. In this paper, the author explains these principles and techniques and presents a two-sentence template for defining words in the classroom. The author then shows how teachers can use this template along with the defining techniques to define a wide range of words and adapt the content of their definitions to a wide range of defining situations. Intended as a practical guide to teachers, the paper concludes with numerous examples which illustrate how to adapt the template and defining techniques to a wide range of classroom defining situations. The paper also includes two appendices teachers can consult when writing their own definitions: an outline of the defining process and a summary of definition styles for quick reference.


First and Second Language Acquisition | Morphology | Teacher Education and Professional Development