I need to translate a sentence from Spanish to English.
What's another word for happiness?
Who was the fifth president of the United States?
Finding the answers to these questions could be time consuming. Don't use Internet "search engines" for answers to simple reference questions. Instead, build an electronic library in your classroom. Reference materials can be right at your fingertips.
Use the following links on this page to explore educational web resources:
- Online Reference Tools for Children
- Reference Tool Starting Points and Portals
- Thesaurus and Specialty Dictionaries
- Conversion & Translation Tools
- Almanac, Calendars, Record Books and Others
- Maps and Atlas
The following reference resources are the best for children.
- Fact Monster
- Information Please
- Internet Picture Dictionary
- Little Explorer's Picture Dictionary
- Rudiments of Wisdom - cartoon fun
- Word Central
The following links are good starting points for locating reference materials on the web:
- General Reference from Multnomah County Library
- General Reference from Internet Public Library
- General Reference from ThinkQuest
- Internet Public Library - Ready References
- Library Spot
- My Virtual Reference Desk
A dictionary is a reference tool that contains an alphabetical listing of words with information about each word. This information usually includes meaning, pronunciation, and etymology. Some dictionaries provide language translations or are subject specific.
A digital dictionary contains the same contents as a printed dictionary. In addition, users may be able to hear the word read aloud. Most online dictionaries have a search feature in addition to an alphabetical listing.
Google provides quick access to dictionaries. Do a dictionary search for the word frog using the word define: frog.
The following links go to dictionaries and subject specific dictionaries:
- American Heritage Dictionary from Yahooligans
- OneLook - dictionary
- Webster's Dictionary - enter a word; get a definition
- A Basic Guide to ASL
- HandSpeak - Sign Language Dictionary
- Law Dictionary
- Literary Terms from Gale
- Onine Biology Dictionary
- Online Slang Dictionary
- Slang Site
- Urban Dictionary
- What Is?
A thesaurus is a reference tool that contains an alphabetical listing of words and their synonyms. Some thesaurus also include related and contrasting words and antonyms.
A digital thesaurus contains the same contents as a printed thesaurus. In addition, users may be able to hear the words read aloud. Some thesaurus also include definitions. A visual thesaurus connects related words using icons and lines.
The following links go to thesaurus and specialty dictionaries:
- Merriam Webster Thesaurus
- Roget's Thesaurus
- Roget's II Thesaurus from Yahooligans
- Thesaurus - enter a word; get similar words
- Visual Thesaurus
- Webster's Thesaurus
Many of the online thesaurus are interactive, graphic tools.
An encyclopedia is a reference tool that contains articles on a wide range of topics or in a specific subject area. These articles are generally organized in alphabetical order.
A digital encyclopedia contains the same contents as a printed encyclopedia. In addition, users may be able to hear the article read aloud, watch video clips and animations, and view visuals such as photographs, drawings, and diagrams. Most online encyclopedia have a search feature in addition to an alphabetical listing.
The following links go to general and subject specific encyclopedia:
- AllRef Reference and Encyclopedia Resource
- Columbia Encyclopedia
- Columbia Encyclopedia from Yahooligans
- Instrument Encyclopedia
- Let's Find Out
- World Book - subscription-based, limited access
Subject Area Encyclopedia
- CIA World Factbook
- Encyclopedia Mythica
- How Stuff Works
- Medical Encyclopedia from Medline
- Science World by Wolfram
- United Nations Cyberbus
A directory is a reference tool that contains an alphabetical listing of information such as names, addresses, or other data.
A digital directory contains the same contents as a printed directory. In addition, most online directories have a search feature in addition to an alphabetical listing.
The following links go to directories:
A conversion and translation tool is a reference tool that converts data or words from one form into another.
The following links go to converters and translation tools:
Language Dictionaries and Translation Tools
- Google Translate
- French-English Dictionary
- German-English Dictionary
- Word Reference - translates words from one language to another
Measurement Calculators and Conversion Tools
- Conversion of Weights and Measures
- Density Conversion Calculator
- Online Conversion
- Universal Currency Converter
- Weights and Measures
- World Time Servers
An almanac is a reference tool published annually that contains timely information such as calendars, tide tables, weather forecasts, and astronomical information. It may also include other factual information in the form of lists, tables, and general interest information.
The following links go to almanacs, calendars, records books, and others:
A map is a reference tool that is a representation of a location such as a town or country. It may also depict other physical things such as a moon, human face, or genetic makeup. An atlas is a reference tool that contains a collection of maps.
A digital atlas is a reference tool that allows users to search for the name or history of a place and locate maps and directions.
The following links go to maps, atlas, and directions:
- Ancient World Mapping Center
- Atlapedia Online
- Google Maps
- Map Machines from National Geographic
- Bing Maps
References in Your Classroom
Focus on one tool at a time. Design a simple activity using the web-based reference tool.
Sometimes reference tools are a better use of time than searching for websites on a particular topic. Can online references really help students answer questions? Or, will they just make students more frustrated? Think like a student and complete the following activity:
Create a list of three questions that might be asked at your grade level. Choose three different topics.
Use websites to answer the questions, then address the following questions:
Were you able to answer the questions?
What three words best describe your experience using online resources to answer specific questions?
What strategies could be used to make the experience more meaningful or successful?
What types of topics and questions would work best using these tools?