There are pros and cons to everything in life and it really comes down to how you use something. Each year my first graders receive dictionaries during the first week of school. It had taken me a while to adjust to these. There is a fine line between trying to spell yourself and using the dictionary as a crutch. I really want my students to try to spell on their own.
In 2015 I started incorporating the dictionary as part of my weekly spelling program.
On Thursdays I would have the students search in their dictionaries for their spelling words. First as a class we would put the spelling words in alphabetical order. (I used the word cards I would be putting on the word wall in a pocket chart.) If the word was in the dictionary they would highlight it, if not they had to write it on the correct page. The students loved this activity. We did this as a guided activity for several weeks and adventurually they did it as an independent center activity.
However I noticed when it came to writing workshop my students were not using the word wall or their dictionaries for spelling. They continued to come to me to spell words for them. So I created a poster and introduced it with a mini lesson.
We were still going through quite a few post its and they were still relying on me to spell. Then I started to have them actually bring their dictionaries up to me with the post it because a lot of the words were in the dictionary or were spelling words. I would show them the word.
They could point out the word in the dictionary if they were unsure or give it a try on the post it, however that dictionary had to come up with them. After I guided them through sounding out the word they had to write is correctly in their dictionary. This was useful because they could now reference the book if they needed this word again.
A couple words I would have your whole class put in their dictionaries:
1. Print the names of all the students. (We did that the first month. Each day we added the star student's name to the dictionary as a morning activity.)
2. Add your name and the principal's name to the dictionary.
3. Add the name of the school and city and state to the dictionary.
(This helped cut down on my line a lot.)
4. We reuse our post-its. (Since I spend a lot of time teaching about recycling and reusing in the classroom the students keep the post it on the front of their dictionary or the front pocket of their writing folder for the next time they have a word.)
At the end of the school year the first graders have an amazing resource to take home with them and use through the summer and second grade to help them spell.
**I used a free dictionary from themeasuredmom.com for this post, however you can use any dictionary you feel works best for your students. FYI...The Measured Mom has a variety of dictionaries of different levels and formats.