This project works best if your class is into speculative fiction, which is collectively the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Since these types of stories often have made-up words (or perhaps established words with new or modified definitions), students will make a miniature dictionary (with, say, twenty entries or so) with words from a fictional franchise that they love.

The first step is for students to choose which property they’d like to work with. We’d leave the doors wide open on the possibilities, but you may want to guide them in particular directions based on what’s popular or available in your area, at your school, and for your class’s age range. It would be nice if there were different stories/franchises featured across the class, but it would also be interesting to compare dictionaries that different students made for the same property.

The second step is to identify words they can include. This may take some time, so we recommend giving students a couple weeks for this part. As they read, listen to, or watch their stories, they should make notes whenever they come across a word that we don’t typically use in our world. In addition to jotting down that word, they might want to note the page number or time-mark in case they need to revisit it later.

Third, students should form their entries. They may want to have a dictionary open as a reference, and it’s probably a good idea for you to go over the format with the class before they begin this part. Each entry should have the word, the pronunciation, the part of speech, the definition(s), irregular forms of the word (like plurals or participles), and that word as other parts of speech (usually by adding suffixes like -ness, -ity-, -ate, etc.). There’s also the option of them including example sentences.

If students are having difficulty figuring out just how to define some of these words, they can use an online reference (since even information about fictional worlds will almost certainly be available on one or more websites). However, make sure that what they ultimately write down is in their own words.

As a final note, if the story they’re pulling from is rather expansive, students may choose to narrow the scope of the dictionary. For example, a student going with Harry Potter or Star Wars might choose to only focus on creatures, in which case their dictionary would be a bestiary.

Here’s a shortened example we made.

Get more with Insider Access


Advanced Features in Student Projects

search and filter

planning info


Extra Video Content

more How-to-Teach grammar videos*

with intros, instructions, and summaries

*compared to free resources


Exclusive Supplemental Resources


posters & handouts

bonus notes


Customized Apples-to-Apples

Have your students compile all the nouns and adjectives they’ve learned over the past year, then put each on its own card. Play a customized Apples-to-Apples game tailored to your own class’s knowledge, skill level, culture, and interests.

Read More »

Category Dictionary

In this project for beginners or young learners, students keep a notebook of many of the vocab words they’ve learned, designated by category, and paged alphabetically.

Read More »

Its Own Opposite

Many words have multiple definitions, and a handful of words have two or more definitions that contrast with one another. These words are called contranyms (or Janus words). For this project, students will define, describe, and give examples of contranyms.

Read More »

Synonyms based on Emotion

In this project, we’ll look at synonyms for verbs that incorporate an emotion or attitude that the doer of the action (the subject) exhibits. Given a list of synonyms for an action, students must identify an emotion or attitude that is associated with each.

Read More »

Myths Live On

English has many words with Greek roots, and some of those are based in Greek myths. In this WebQuest, students will learn about a character from Greek mythology, one of their key stories, and some of the vocabulary words that are named after that character.

Read More »

Crime & Justice

Re-enact a criminal case: craft the situation around a fictional robbery, conduct an investigation, and put on a mock trial. This project works best with multiple classes.

Read More »

Share This Post