Friday, June 10, 2011

Great Vocabulary Treasures

During the summer I have more time to peruse my subscriptions to find internet sites that could benefit student learning in the classroom. It's just been a few days since I checked out of my three schools and I've already found two vocabulary treasures! As teachers are encouraged continually to build academic vocabulary, I think these sites will help us move closer to that goal.

The first vocabulary treasure is WordStash which offers a free teacher account to create classes and sets of flashcard lists for your students. It is very easy to set up a list--I have already created one for geography terms and another list for book parts and reference materials. When you add a word to your list, a definition pops up which you can edit according to your classroom needs. After you create a class, you have options on how to share the list with your students. (I'm currently looking into that part of the program and am waiting on some teacher friends to make their recommendations on that aspect!!).

Word lists can be studied as online flashcards but can also be printed. Flashcards can contain only text or can also include a visual. But the bonus of the program is that the flashcards are used in study activities. In "Practice Mode", students can choose to study the words and definitions by multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, or random. After students are familiar with the vocabulary set, they can then play a match game where they are timed as they drag the correct word to the appropriate definition. By continuing play in this mode, students try to beat their own time which helps them focus on keywords in the definition. The other game activity is called "Waterfall Game" but it does not seem to be working for me (I've reported it).

This site was advertised for middle and high school students but I think that our elementary students will be able to utilize it. I'm thinking that if we "divide and conquer" our academic vocabulary lists on shared teacher accounts that we could have this up and ready this fall. Possibly each grade could share a teacher account to create shared lists--one teacher could set up math vocabulary and another set up science vocabulary, and so on. I think it important that we include academic vocabulary words from lower grade lists as well as some words from above grade lists or to create multiple lists (like basic, grade, and advanced levels). If we allow students time during computer lab to understand how to access and practice the lists, I'm hoping that they might be encouraged to participate in using the site for additional practice at home.

The other site that caught my eye is which is geared toward students in grade 9 and up as well as tutoring situations. This is more of an individual vocabulary development tool and most likely not as appropriate for my elementary students. However, I'm looking for applications using the Dictionary segment of the site. Possibly students could type selected academic vocabulary into the search box and then read the information that accompanies the definition information. I'm still working on "what to do with what you found" to build student engagement with this application. Suggestions are welcome!! :)

This site is great for anyone who enjoys word challenges. If you create an account (it's free!), the program will monitor your progress to introduce and review over 40,000 words to build your vocabulary. The program includes some impressive progress tracking results for specific words as well as overall stats.

So to paraphrase Walt Disney: "There is more treasure in w o r d s than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." Don't you agree?

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