Review by Erin Brereton, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2013

Visual Thesaurus

Watch words branch out into intriguing, layered language maps

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Teachers say (3 Reviews)
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Grades
9-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Learning about language concepts through illustrated examples, instead of just reading about them, can be really engaging.

Cons: Figuring out the word chart structure can be confusing at first, and the only source of feedback primarily comes from other users.

Bottom Line: With such a great visual take on the depth of language, more ways to personalize the experience would make it even better.

You can use Visual Thesaurus to help kids expand their vocabulary and strengthen their grammar know-how. Any word map would be great to show as an example in the classroom. Word maps include example sentences, which you can highlight to show word usage, and students can identify what part of speech the word is by how it’s color-coded.

Help kids create lists of words to look up, using other classroom readings or external materials. Another fun exercise: Have kids draw a word map in the Visual Thesaurus style, using markers or crayons. Kids can save their lists on the site and share them with other users, which may work for classroom use; users can also comment on lists, giving kids the chance to include additional research or notes. For classroom use, Visual Thesaurus offers special pricing based on number of users; contact them for a quote.

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Visual Thesaurus is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus that creates word maps that branch out to further meanings and related words. But kids will get much more than a list of synonyms; it's an in-depth visual word experience.

Searching for words is easy: Type in a term and a window pops up showing related words, which branch off from the original term. Colored circles next to each word help kids identify what type of speech they are, and you can hover your cursor over the word to see an example sentence that illustrates usage. A search for smile, for example, results in a link to the word grin, marked with a red dot to indicate that it’s a noun. Other lines lead to a green dot, with similar verbs and antonyms. Click on the word to hear it pronounced. There's also a social component: Students can share their wordlists with other users (or make them private), plus post comments about each other’s lists.

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The structure is great for visual learners who may have a hard time absorbing information presented in the often dry, text-heavy format of many print dictionaries and thesauruses. Map-like search results show teens how words are used in different parts of speech; can help strengthen their grammar skills; and will show them subtle nuances between different words, which can help students better understand usage.

It's a unique, detailed resource that teaches kids about usage and sentence structure in a very visual way. However, there is a slight catch: You have to subscribe to use Visual Thesaurus. Luckily, subscriptions aren’t very expensive, and discounts for classrooms and schools are available.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Grammar fans will love it; other teens might not be instantly enthralled but should enjoy finding words they're curious about. Commenting can encourage users to return to the site; extra readings may help spark an interest in language.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

The vocabulary kids could gain with Visual Thesaurus could help them improve speaking and writing skills. The option to comment is empowering, but kids won’t get much direct feedback aside from spelling suggestions when entering a word.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Educators can find lesson plans and other resources, and a blog covers many language-related topics. Kids can get a grade-appropriate, word-of-the-day email; plus, you can search for Spanish, German, Italian, French, and Dutch words.


Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Adina S. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
4
A great option for those who need more than a standard print thesaurus.

I love this tool an the way it helps students of varying skill levels and types of needs. Students from 4th grade up could make great use of it. To go past just a few uses, you do have to subscribe. For Middle and High School language arts classes, the options it provides over completely free sites, make the price worth it,.

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