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Beyond an online dictionary

Today I was in a school district sharing some web based alternatives to book reports, research reports, paper books, etc..  As I was doing so, a couple of teachers asked some questions about my delicious bookmarks.  As we were exploring them I came across a website that I had bookmarked a while ago and had forgotten all about, VocabGrabber.

VocabGrabber is a product of ThinkMap and its visual thesaurus.

“VocabGrabber analyzes any text you’re interested in, generating lists of the most useful vocabulary words and showing you how those words are used in context. Just copy text from a document and paste it into the box, and then click on the “Grab Vocabulary!” button. VocabGrabber will automatically create a list of vocabulary from your text, which you can then sort, filter, and save.”

As we were viewing the site, I began to run it through my “what research says about how we teach vocabulary” filter and here’s what I came up with as a way for this particular site can support what we know about how to effectively teach vocabulary.

1.  According to the Adolescent Literacy and Research Team’s report, word consciousness can be described as  the “Understanding nuance of meaning and connotation is another important part of word consciousness.”  This development of students’ awareness of words and their meanings help build vocabulary knowledge.

VocabGrabber is a great tool for developing students word consciousness.  A person can filter words based on relevance to the text, by the number of occurrences in the text, as a list, and visually and see examples of how the word selected is used in the text.  The discussions that could potentially take place regarding the word, why it is where it is in the list and make some comparisons to the word and context could be very beneficial in helping students develop a deep understanding of words.

2.  According to research in the area of vocabulary, most vocabulary is learned indirectly, and some vocabulary must be taught indirectly.

The problem that many content area teachers run into when directly teaching words is that many times unfamiliar words relate to unfamiliar concepts.  Our job as educators is to help the unfamiliar become familiar.  VocabGrabber includes a feature that helps students visually see words and their relationship to other words and also the subjects, such as Science, Social Studies, Arts and Literature that the word is related to.  Students need to be provided with multiple opportunities to see the relationships between words and in multiple contexts in order to develop a deep understanding of words.

3.  In light of the number of words that students need to know and understand in order to use them in their writing and speaking, educators need to be mindful in which words they choose to directly teach.  We simply cannot teach them all.  VocabGrabber provides a useful tool that may assist teachers in choosing which words to directly teach.

Words can sorted words by relevance, according to their site, relevance is determined by comparing how frequently words are used in the text versus how they are used in written English overall.  If I am reading it right, those words that score high on relevance, a 5 or 4 would be those words that are unique to the content, and as you move down the list, to the 2s and 3s, these are words that occur frequently in the English language and are related to the content.  Those that score a 1 are words that are very generic and are not necessarily related to the content.

Sites such as this one, do more to help students build their vocabulary than simply looking up words in a dictionary, either online or with the hard copy.  It can effectively help a teacher utilize best-practices when it comes to increasing their students vocabulary.

One Comment

  1. Lori Beltran wrote:

    This website sounds very helpful. Can’t wait to try it!! One more tool for teachers to use as they prepare to meet the individualized needs of all students.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

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