Educator donates 27 dictionaries to Austin teacher's classroom

Larry McKenzie is a fourth and fifth grade science and STEM teacher at Harmony School of Innovation in southeast Austin. Every morning, he uses an exercise to challenge his students to learn new vocabulary.

"When it comes to our lesson, I encourage them to pick up the dictionary and open it up when they come across a word they don't understand, don't recognize," McKenzie said.

But like most teachers, McKenzie has been using worn out dictionaries. 

"The problem was our dictionaries were a little bit old. We've got this one that, I literally had to tape it together, just to make sure that they still had this to use," he said.

The issue with the dictionaries McKenzie had in his classroom is that they were too advanced for his fourth and fifth graders.

"It's not a good fit to have to explain the definition to fourth and fifth graders," McKenzie said. "They should be able to understand the definitions straight from the dictionary."

A colleague of McKenzie heard about him needing new dictionaries for his class, so she decided to donate 27 hard cover elementary edition dictionaries.


McKenzie says he prefers giving his students as much tactile experience as possible. He said the beauty of a paper dictionary is that students discover other words while searching for the definition of a term for a lesson. 

In addition, they learn to alphabetize without even realizing it, and that the process of doing so sparks their interest to learn more. McKenzie also states that the hard-back copies will last much longer.

"Even with our non-English, the English primarily spoken at home students, they still benefit from having a picture of the item in the definition if they're not familiar with it. So yeah, it's very much geared towards my students, more so than this dictionary was," McKenzie said.

McKenzie says using the dictionaries in his class encourages students to be curious and prepare them for the science STAAR test.