As the school year goes on I find that I have to work harder and harder to keep kids engaged in each daily lesson. Honestly, who can blame them? Once the spring flowers blossom, and the birds start chirping, I’m begging to be outside too. Looking ahead to spring, I’ve decided to ditch the paper word web, and have my students creating and engaging with online interactive word webs. Throughout all of the research I have conducted around how to make vocabulary words stick, the most common strategy is to use visual aids – pictures, drawings, symbols, graphic organizers, etc.

Although visual aids are a great way to help engage students in vocabulary learning, the act of recording their findings does help each word stick in their busy brains. So, I will have students record their findings from each virtual word web in a Vocabulary Notebook. This notebook is something we have used all year. We dedicate 3-5 pages for each word we focus on – most are character trait words, others are related to our Social Studies content. At morning meeting three days a week, we add to our pictures, examples and stories related to the word of the week. Then, students share with a partner. A few partner groups each week are asked to report out to the whole class. This is a great way to hold students accountable for their vocabulary learning, and to scaffold academic conversations in your classroom. I will be dedicating one whole blog post to Vocabulary Notebooks – stay tuned!

In addition to being visually and cognitively engaging, I find these websites easy to use and accessible to all. Students at all reading levels can learn and interact with online word webs. This is especially useful when accommodating lessons for ELL students. All kiddos need to know is how to spell the word of the week, the rest is left to the website! Each of these resources provides not only a root, definitions, and examples for each word, but they all offer connections to other words that students may know, or can learn as they go.

Here are the interactive sites I’ve found to be the most engaging and useful when teaching vocabulary:

  • Interactive word web resources

    • Visuwords (https://visuwords.com/): This site is visually engaging, offering the different meanings and parts of speech of each word. Visuwords also includes connections to similar concepts.

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  • Lexipedia (http://www.lexipedia.com/): This is a multi-lingual interactive word web, it offers kid friendly definitions, and sentence examples. In addition, this site explains each meaning of the word, including the different parts of speech. The definitions and webs offered are thorough and in depth.

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  • Visual Thesaurus (https://www.visualthesaurus.com/): “Making the white space talk.” This site is very straight forward, giving students a “Thinkmap” of great synonyms and example sentences. It is extremely user friendly for printing as well. The print option gives a lot of information on each word – great for accommodating students when writing about the word of the week in their Vocabulary Notebook.

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Visual Thesaurus Print screen:

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I hope you find these resources helpful! Please try them out in your classrooms and let us know if you found student engagement to be high. In addition, share your experiences and more online resources below in the comments!