Review by Andrea Meyers, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2018


Vocabulary and spelling activities can supplement any content area

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (18 Reviews)

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Pros: Aligns with existing word study programs and standards, and word lists can be customized for individual students.

Cons: Not all of the games are engaging, and many of the activities just focus on memorization.

Bottom Line: This isn't groundbreaking pedagogy, but the site can be used as a supplement to other reading programs and textbooks, or as an add-on to non-ELA classrooms.

The VocabularySpellingCity website is the home base for student management, spelling and vocabulary word lists, tracking progress, and teacher resources and articles. Teachers create word lists and assign learning activities or offer students free choice. There are printables in addition to interactives. It's useful for individual formative work in the classroom or at home, and students access learning activities through their personal login provided by the teacher. Through the site's activities, students learn new words and practice spelling and phonemic awareness skills.

In addition to English language studies, teachers in other content areas can use the site for math, science, geography, and history vocabulary instruction. Import the existing word lists to your dashboard or create your own custom lists. There are also SAT and ACT word lists and analogies lists to practice for standardized tests.

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VocabularySpellingCity offers free and Premium memberships. The free memberships focus on spelling practice with 11 games and activities. Premium memberships offer over 35 ad-free games and activities and include vocabulary, phonics, and student data tracking. The site works in all web browsers. If teachers purchase a Premium membership ($59.95 per year), their students may also use the free VocabularySpellingCity app on iOS and Android mobile devices. 

The learning games and activities have audio instructions that students need to listen to before beginning. Students can click to hear words and sentences repeated as often as needed in the learning activities, and students can repeat learning activities for additional practice. Some learning activities offer a choice of user interface before starting. This can be helpful if some of your students are overwhelmed by busy interfaces.

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Most of the activities are easy to figure out, and many address multiple skills. For example, the HangMouse game combines spelling and phonemic awareness, challenging students to use critical thinking to spell the hidden word, and the Which Word? Sentences game can be tweaked to focus on analogies so that students both practice analogies and learn vocabulary. Other activities, however, focus on memorization and other lower-order thinking skills. Given the range of activities on VocabularySpellingCity, it's important to choose the right activity to meet the learning needs of each student.

The learning is interactive and semi-playful, but the level of engagement varies across the activities. Many of the activities look like screen-based multiple-choice worksheet activities, which isn't a ton of fun. If given the choice, students are likely to latch onto one or two preferred activities, and repeat them with different word lists. The game and learning activities provide hints, and many allow the student to move at their own pace.

The learning activities can be used for both ELA and ELL studies as well as content-area vocabulary studies and standardized test reviews for K-12. Students with learning disabilities may need support or monitoring to complete learning activities, particularly if one works on a skill the student struggles with. For example, the Crossword word bank pops over the screen and then goes away when the student is ready to type. This can be problematic for students who need visual support to practice spelling the words correctly. Teachers should  consider offering a printed list to support students in these situations.

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Overall Rating

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

Interactive spelling and vocabulary activities may hold some students' attention over traditional paper and pencil activities, though the games are simplistic.

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

The learning activities emphasize the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (remembering, understanding, applying), but students can also practice analogies skills.

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

The website offers many teaching resources, word lists, support videos, and FAQs. Teachers can find lessons, implementation ideas, printables, and educational articles.

Common Sense Reviewer
Andrea Meyers Technology Assistant and graduate student in instructional technology

Teacher Reviews

(See all 18 reviews) (18 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Monika J. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Guyandotte Elementary School
Huntington, WV
Great program for spelling and vocabulary review.
I think this is an excellent resource for teachers as well as students and parents. I like having the ability to create my own lists and make my own homework assignments based on my students' needs. This is available for students to do at home also, which helps with study and review. I like having the ability to print out worksheets and puzzles to keep my students interested as well as challenged. One downfall is that not all activities are available without paying for premium membership. With tight school budgets, this is not always feasible to purchase and that limits what you and your students have access to. If money is available, however, I feel that it is well worth the purchase price. Read full review