Smart, stylish site helps students commit new words to memory

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Subjects & Skills

Character & SEL, College & Career Prep, Critical Thinking, English Language Arts

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: Customized help, positive encouragement, and the ability to track progress all reinforce learning.

Cons: While question structure varies, more variety in the activities would help keep challenges fun.

Bottom Line: It's a great, goal-oriented learning resource with the potential to turn vocab lessons into a fun challenge.

You can have your students use the site to explore new vocabulary on their own, or you can offer some structured vocab practice to support what you're teaching. One of the best ways to use the site is to integrate its vocab practice with texts your students are reading. The dynamic teacher dashboard can allow you to see detailed information on where students' mastery of vocabulary is sticking.

Beyond the thousands of provided lists already on the site, you can paste up to 100 pages of text into the site's List Builder, and it will give you a list of words. This is great when you want to create a list ahead of an assigned reading. Beyond any of your content-focused vocab practice, consider encouraging your students -- or even your whole school -- to get involved in one of the site's Vocabulary Bowls.

Vocabulary.com is a website (and Chrome app) that helps kids improve their vocab skills using quick quizzes that adapt to their skill level over time. A word appears on the screen; from four definitions, students choose the one they think is correct. The site will then tailor future questions based on their strengths and areas for growth. Many terms are commonly used in academic and business environments, but the site also works to identify terms unfamiliar to the user. If kids answer a question incorrectly, Vocabulary.com schedules extra exercises to help them learn it. Students get points for each correct answer and earn badges as they reach different goals; teachers can track students' progress for free (to a point) in the Educator Edition -- previously a paid feature. The site hosts regular Vocabulary Bowls where students compete for their school in monthly or year-long competitions. A variety of leaderboards are displayed, which can up the sense of friendly competition, whether within a class or between schools.

With more than 100,000 questions on hand, Vocabulary.com can offer a plethora of learning opportunities. Although the site says it'll work at any education level, the SAT word lists and social networking component make it a particularly good fit for high school-age students. Encouraging younger students to compile and share their own vocabulary lists could cause some concern, but teens could easily comment on lists, favorite them, and use them as a starting point for creating their own.

For students, the points system provides a decent source of ongoing encouragement. Once they've answered enough questions, the system will begin to tailor word choices to an individual's comprehension level, constantly adapting to their ongoing needs. It's an effective way to ensure that students have committed terms to memory. However, the site's most beneficial tool might be for teachers: the collection of pre-made vocab lists and the List Builder tool. Beyond being a time saver, it allows teachers to help their classes focus on vocabulary words that they'll read in context -- an important factor in students' acquisition of new language. About to start a Great Gatsby novel unit? Frontload your students' reading with some solid vocab practice. Charts offer students feedback on progress; teachers can also track their class's progress, though for the really detailed data, an upgraded (paid) account is required.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Instead of merely reading definitions, students are more active in guessing word meanings. They get points for every question they answer, encouraging them to use the site regularly as they work toward higher levels.


Missed words reappear to ensure they've been learned. Terms nailed on the first try reappear, too. The impressively adaptive challenges are based on user responses.


Right from the homepage, teachers can get word lists for tests, literary works, and historical documents, or create and share their own. Video tutorials help explain the site's many applications. The blog covers a variety of other info.

Community Rating

The students won't know you are teaching vocabulary!

I love that I can have students practice vocabulary without note-taking and flashcards. I really appreciate the ease of having pre-made vocabulary list available and the option to edit those premade lists or create my own. The students enjoy Vocabulary.com and think it is a game, while it is tracking their mastery. I am able to see the data of every student in my class and every word in the list, meaning I can watch their progress and decide which vocab words I need to spend extra time on in class. There are a few different options for how to assign the words to the students; practice, quiz, spelling-bee, and vocabulary jam. I have only used the practice and quiz options so far, and I am happy with them. The quiz feature is a little bugged, and once a student leaves the quiz or even refreshes the page, Vocabulary.com ends the quiz for that student and they are unable to return. There is no pause option or ability to finish the quiz at a later time, which I dislike. I also wish that navigating the site was a bit more user-friendly, but overall, I feel my students are benefiting from Vocabulary.com. The weekly progress report to my email is cool, and I see that my students are widening their vocabulary. I cannot wait to see what a full year if using Vocabulary. com will look like in my students.

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