Getting the most out of vocabulary lessons

Exactly. The sentences in the dictionary tend to be short and easy to parse. You can always use Rikai-chan to help translate.

I use (Digital Daijiten)

Also, in this website, there is a Japanese-bred JE dictionary. (Shogakukan Progressive JE). There is also a thesaurus in this website.

My another trick is dictation of E->J in Anki.

You might also use these two scripts to get more out of vocab lessons. Actually, if you read some real stuff, you always get more out of vocab,

Weblio JP uses Digital Daijirin.