App review by Stacy Zeiger, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2014
Vocabulary.com
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Vocabulary.com

Surprisingly addictive quiz game adapts as students play

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Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
7–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking, College & Career Prep

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Pros: Game design motivates teens to keep defining words and improve their scores, tracking their progress as they play.

Cons: Lacks entertaining elements, such as zany sound effects or animations, choosing a more academic feel that may put off some students.

Bottom Line: Teens can learn new words in a variety of contexts as they play a surprisingly addictive game.

Use Vocabulary.com to encourage your students to build vocabulary skills in a non-threatening, possibly even fun, way. The words in the game make it ideal for use as part of an SAT-prep program or a high school English course. By searching the word lists, you can help students practice relevant vocabulary. For example, a social studies teacher may use a word list that focuses on vocabulary used in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution or a computer skills teacher may focus on words used in Minecraft. You might also encourage students to play the game for homework to help build their general vocabulary skills and compare their progress with the progress of other students in the class. You could even opt to reward top students for their performance or for making large gains in their skills over a given period of time.

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After creating an account, teens jump right in to playing the vocabulary game. As they play, they encounter a variety of questions. Some ask them to choose the definition for an unfamiliar word, while others present them with a definition and ask them to choose the word it applies to. As they get further into the game, they read short passages and must use the context of the passages to help determine which word best fits into the blank. The game covers a wide range of words, from simpler words such as vale and veterinarian, to more complex words such as viand and solecism. Each correct answer builds points and the game also tracks how well players learn individual words as they continue with the game. This tracking and the game's adaptive format introduces new words based on a player's level, helping to keep it challenging, but not overwhelming. 

While teens may not use many of the words they learn while playing the game, they'll build general vocabulary skills. As they discover new words, they'll learn about common word patterns, improve the ability to use context clues, and gain confidence in their vocabulary skills. Many of the words they learn may also appear on college acceptance exams such as the SAT and ACT, so playing the game regularly has the potential to help improve their scores. In fact, specific word lists allow students to focus on key SAT words, words from specific novels, or even subject-specific words.

The app would be stronger if there were ways for kids to make their own connections to word meanings. The ability to curate word lists, add images, or create their own sentences using the words would make for deeper learning.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Quiz-style game may take time to hook teens.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Words are presented in a variety of contexts and game tracks understanding of individual words. Adaptive design tailors questions to students' comprehension level as they play.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Students can monitor their progress, and they receive encouragement to improve their scores.


Common Sense reviewer
Stacy Zeiger Homeschooling parent

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