Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary

| 11 Comments

'Vocabulary - Words Are Important' photo (c) 2012, Dr Noah Lott - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Gaining vocabulary is obviously an essential part of a learning a language.  There are several important parts of this learning process, I think, including having visual support for the word meaning, seeing it used in context, hearing it spoken and, ideally, having the learner speak it and get feedback on the pronunciation (either by a listener or by having the learner hear him/herself via a recording).

Of course, there are tons of other reading, writing, speaking, and listening activities that are not explicitly designed for learning vocabulary, but that ends up being one of their major results anyway.

A number of studies state that you have to experience a new word between twelve-and-fifteen times in various ways before you really learn it, and experiencing these new words via a computer-based tool can be a good way to get some of those word “touches.”

I thought it would be useful for my students and readers of this blog if I developed a “The Best…” list highlighting web tools that include some or all of the important elements of vocabulary learning that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

However, I do want to make one important point about the sites on this list, and I’m not sure if I can do it clearly.

This “The Best…” list is sort of a companion to The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2008. That list, one of my personal favorites, includes (among other things) my choices for the best translation sites, dictionaries, and places to learn antonyms and synonyms.

This list will not include web tools in those categories. Instead, here I’ll be applications that require more “active” participation by the user. In other words, the learner is “prompted” more by the application, or has to do something more than just type in a query. In the reference sites, the user seems to do more of the initiation. I don’t know if that explanation makes a whole lot of sense, but it’s the best I can do late at night :)

Another requirement I had for a site to be on this list was that registration was not required — all someone has to do is go the site and start learning.

Also, because the apps on this list all are pretty different, it was hard for me to rank them, as I usually do on this types of lists. So I’ve chosen to not list them in any order of preference.

(You might also find The Best Sites To Help ELL’s Learn Idioms & Slang and The Best “I Spy” (Hidden Object) Games For Vocabulary Development useful)

You can also find hundreds of other sites on my website in the Vocabulary section.

Here are my choices for The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary:

Kindersay is a new free site that offers an excellent multimedia experience where Beginning English Language Learners can learn about 500 basic words.  I wish the examples included sentences where the words were used in context, but, again, II guess you can’t have everything…

Word Ahead is one of the best vocabulary-learning sites I’ve seen for advanced English Language Learners and mainstream students.  It uses SAT words, and shows the word and representative image, plus provides audio support for text showing the word being used in context.

Photo Munchr (their spelling, not mine) is a Pac-Man-type word game.  It shows a word and a bunch of different photos.  If you “munch” on the seven photos that correctly illustrate the word, you advance to the next level.  It’s a fun way for English Language Learners to build and reinforce vocabulary.

Starfall is the established site that is rivaled by no other in providing accessible literacy activities to Beginning English Language Learners.

U.S.A Learns is an incredible website to help users learn English that’s on several of my other “The Best…” lists.  Even though it’s primarily designed for older learners, it seems very accessible to all but the very youngest ELL’s.  It’s free to use. Students can register if they want to save their work and evaluate their progress, but it’s not required.  One of its great features is that learners can report and record words that they’re learning and listen to how they sound.

I like these simple exercises from Oxford University Press:

Happy Earth Vocabulary 1
Happy Earth Vocabulary 2

Stardust 1 Games
Stardust 2 Games
Stardust 3 Games

I also like these vocabulary games from Cambridge:

Interchange “What Do You See?” Introductory
Interchange “What Do You See?’ Book One
Interchange “What Do You See?” Book Two
Interchange “What Do You See?” Book Three

Splashr is an extraordinary application that students, particularly second-language learners, can use to easily create their own picture dictionary. Write in a word, choose from a ton of different presentation styles, and you get countless images representing that word. Even better — and this is really the reason for its placement on this list — you can email the link and create your own picture dictionary.

I’m not a real fan of Word Searches, and view them more as “busy work.” However, Photo Soup is can be a fun word search game where users pick the category, and then photos from Flickr are shown as hints. It’s a good way to reinforce vocabulary when you have a few minutes to kill in the computer lab.

Learning Chocolate is designed for English Language Learners to gain basic vocabulary through many interactive exercises.

I’ve previously written about the interactives created by teacher Mrs. Haquet from Frenchfrog’s Little English Pond. I just realized, however, that I have not included her extraordinary creations in this list.

All of her great vocabulary games can be found here.

Her interactive books can be found here.

English Central is, in my mind at least, clearly the most useful site for English Language Learners that’s on the Web. It’s on a zillion of “The Best…” lists, usually ranked number one. It was really difficult to believe that they could get any better. But they just did. Thanks to David Deubelbeiss, I learned they’ve added a whole new vocabulary building component to the site. My students use the site twice each week, but I hadn’t noticed the addition.

English Vocabulary Menu at ESOL Courses

Language Guide

Learn English Teens also has some good vocabulary activities.

Vocabulary Instruction Ideas From #ELLCHAT

PictoLang provides a series of interactives designed for English Language Learners (and learners of other languages) to gain basic vocabulary knowledge.

Vocabulary Exercises contains a lot of thematic interactives on….vocabulary.

BONUS FOR TEACHERS:

Strategies in vocabulary learning is from Language Moments.

10 Principles for Effective Vocabulary Instruction is a really nice infographic from Eye On Education.

15+ different Vocabulary Methods (How to teach words) is from Carissa Peck.

The British Council has many ideas for teaching vocabulary.

my favourite ways of revisiting vocabulary is from Teaching English Notes.

TESOL 2014 HIGHLIGHTS: Vocabulary Learning and Instruction is from English With Jennifer.

Other suggestions are always welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

Print Friendly

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

11 Comments

  1. I definitely think that by not including SpanishDict, you left out a really great resource. For native Spanish speakers, it’s a wonderful ELL site. They have Spanish translation, and other good free stuff. Good luck!

  2. Larry, a quick thank you for this list. I’m on summer hiatus but saw a couple of students yesterday who asked for vocab help.

    Note re word searches. I’ve never been a real fan either, and couldn’t see much value in them, but there’s evidently value for Arabic speakers! Perhaps because of the way Arabic is written, they don’t seem to “see” vowels very well in words, and THEY tell me word searches are helpful.

    I’m still trying to find a magic technique to teach these bright people how to read more quickly and more successfully in English.

  3. Thanks Larry, for including http://www.WordAhead.com in the list of The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary. We have videos and flashcards for over 800 difficult English words now and its easier than ever to make your own word lists in the WordAhead Study Room. You can also follow @WordAhead on twitter or subscribe to receive a Word of the Day vocabulary video in the email. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… | Learn English Online With Me

  5. We have made an effort to visualize vocabulary through fun, hand-sketched stick figure sketches @ http://www.weboword.com

    We hope you enjoy our creations and look forward to your feedback pertaining to the same.

    Thanks and warm regards,
    WeboWord

  6. Hi Larry. Great list.
    I’d add Free Rice (http://www.freerice.com/). As well as a great vocabulary game you’re contributing to a good cause. Once you start playing you can change the level – there are 60 levels to choose from.

  7. Larry, great post! Thank you for sharing this list! I am in the process of writing an outline for a research project that focuses on teaching math vocabulary to ELLs in a small group lesson prior to the whole group math instruction. I am looking into using some of these resources as a part of that instruction, so that they can access them from home and, hopefully, continue their practice. My hope for this project is that they will begin to use the math vocabulary in class discussions and the application of that vocabulary will help with their math performance.

  8. What a resource to use for my classroom. Thank you for this… I will be excited to look more into the websites to find out which ones will be the best for my First Grade students. I am excited to use these in my classroom thank you.

  9. I also find http://www.vocabularyclub.com a good resource for learning foreign language vocabulary.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.