Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary
Vol. 7. No. 4 R-4 March 2004
Return to Table of Contents Return to Main Page

Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary 2nd Edition

Margot F. Gramer (2003)
Oxford: Oxford University Press
Pp. ix + 120
ISBN 0194372324 (paper)

Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary Teacher's Book

Jayme Adelson-Goldstein and Norma Shapiro (2003)
Oxford: Oxford University Press
Pp. xix + 120
ISBN 0194372375 (paper)

The Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary Second Edition is an expanded and updated version of the first edition published fifteen years ago. It is the core of the Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary (BOPD) Program, which includes the Teacher's Book, Teacher's Resource Book of Reproducible Activities, Workbook, Picture Cards, Dictionary Cassettes, Overhead Transparencies and Literacy Program. The authors state that the goal of the BOPD Program is to meet the needs of low-beginning adults and young adults learning English as a second or foreign language. It claims to be a four-skills course, encouraging students' reading, writing, speaking and listening skills as well as their cooperative skills as they acquire 1,200 high frequency words and phrases.

In the Picture Dictionary, these words and phrases are organized into 12 fairly comprehensive categories ranging from health to transportation. A table of contents lists these categories and is followed by about 100 pages of labeled illustrations. Not all of the illustrations are completely realistic, but they are clearly depicted and recognizable. The illustrators have also been deliberate in including people of varied nationality throughout the dictionary. Because not all of the details of each picture are labeled, there is room for expansion of the basic vocabulary if the students or teachers want. The targeted words on each picture page are arranged in columns below the illustrations. Below these lists is a shaded yellow box with brief exercises.

On the page titled "Feelings" (pp. 18-19), for example, the exercise instructions are: "Talk about the people. Point." The examples following are: "She's angry. He's happy. They are scared." The second exercise is a dialogue. "Person A: Ask questions and Person B: Answer and point." The example given is: "A: Who's embarrassed? B: He is." These exercises, which are fairly similar for each section, along with updated artwork are new features of this edition. Following the pages of illustrations is an appendix with maps and units of measurement and a word index complete with a pronunciation guide.

The conveniently spiral-bound Teacher's Book complements the Picture Dictionary, expanding the short exercises printed at the bottom of each dictionary page into a lesson plan. Though the format of the lessons is identical, each includes a variety of practice activities, which keeps the lessons from becoming monotonous. The nineteen-page introduction to the Teacher's Book also has sections on managing a student-centered classroom, teamwork and teaching a multilevel class which are well reasoned and practical. Following the introduction pages, the Teacher's Book and Picture Dictionary share the same pagination.

In the introduction to the Teacher's Book the authors discuss the BOPD approach to language teaching and learning. One part of their teaching philosophy is that "students learn better when they can focus their attention on a topic, preview the words, and tap into prior knowledge" (ix). The Picture Dictionary and Teacher's Book lesson plans seem to be formatted around this belief. The choice of high frequency words and phrases is another indication of the authors' approach and commitment to teaching centered around beginning students' needs. Throughout the Teacher's Book, ideas to promote cooperation among the classmates are also presented. One type of class project suggested is making a fruit salad. With the Fruit lesson (p. 35), each student is instructed to bring one piece of fruit to class. These fruits are made into a salad by following a recipe on the chalkboard. The authors believe that even at the lowest levels of language learning, participating in group activities helps students in their language acquisition.

In evaluating this text, one needs to consider how vocabulary is best taught and learned. Laufer and Hulstijn (2001) have proposed that vocabulary is best learned by task-induced involvement. The structure of the Picture Dictionary exercises requires use of new words and induces such involvement. On the page titled At the Store (Prepositions I), for example, shoes of various styles and colors are placed above, next to, between and under several shoeboxes that are labeled with a splotch of color as well as the color word itself. The student is instructed to Talk about the shoes. Point (54). Under this instruction is the model: The red shoes are above the box. While this lesson primarily targets use of prepositions, use of color words is also necessary to successfully complete the exercise as modeled. This overlap of new words encourages the student in processing the vocabulary in greater depth. It expands the learner's understanding and use of new words in various contexts. The Picture Dictionary exercises, however, often fall short of the need, search and evaluation criteria that Laufer and Hulstijn also purport. Again, using the At the Store example, one can see that the dictionary oversimplifies the exercise by labeling the shoeboxes with color words. To complete the exercise, the student does not need to search for the color word, because the word has already been given. Having a glossary at the bottom of each page may also minimize the student's degree of new word retention. The student may become over-dependent on the glossary as s/he works her/his way through the book. [-1-]

Overall, The Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary Second Edition and Teacher's Book appear to be very practical and strong tools to use with beginners who need to learn the most basic words used in everyday situations in English speaking environments. TPR, writing, reading, speaking, listening and interaction are incorporated into almost each lesson. Though the writing component is not emphasized as much as the speaking and interaction, teachers could give written assignments to counter this weak spot. I myself have found the Picture Dictionary to be very helpful with the low level students I tutor. If I were to teach a classroom full of beginners, the Teacher's Book would be a good guide in helping me make vocabulary acquisition a structured part of the course. The authors quite adequately address the needs of both teachers and students in the process of vocabulary acquisition. Teachers will appreciate the simple but varied lesson plans which enable their students to learn how to live and communicate in English with better understanding within their communities.


Laufer, B. and J. Hulstijn. 2001. "Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition in a Second Language: The Construct of Task-Induced Involvement." Applied Linguistics, 22/1: 1-26.

Elisabeth Wilson
Michigan State University

© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note:

Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation..
Return to Table of Contents Return to Top Return to Main Page