Common Sense Review
Updated September 2015

Smart, stylish site helps students commit new words to memory
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • An example question
  • Get a word wrong? Find hints, clues, and learn more about the word!
  • Classes, and even entire schools, can get involved in one of the site's Vocabulary Bowls.
  • There's a seemingly endless supply of pre-made vocabulary lists.
Customized help, positive encouragement, and the ability to track progress all reinforce learning.
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.
Stephanie Trautman
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

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.

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

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.

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

Right from the homepage, teachers can get word lists for tests, literary works, and historical documents, or create and share their own.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.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

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.

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What's It Like? 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, 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.

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Is It Good For Learning?

With more than 100,000 questions on hand, 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.

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