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 might 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.
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)
Here are my choices for The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary:
The same day Education Week Teacher published Part Two in my series there on teaching vocabulary, the British Council published my column titled Five strategies for ELL vocabulary instruction.
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 (note that they are retiring their Flash-based site and hope to create a new one soon).
Learning Chocolate is designed for English Language Learners to gain basic vocabulary through many interactive exercises.
English Central is one of the most useful sites for English Language Learners that’s on the Web.
English Vocabulary Menu at ESOL Courses
Learn English Teens also has some good vocabulary activities.
Strategies in vocabulary learning is from Language Moments.
15+ different Vocabulary Methods (How to teach words) is from Carissa Peck.
my favourite ways of revisiting vocabulary is from Teaching English Notes.
TESOL 2014 HIGHLIGHTS: Vocabulary Learning and Instruction is from English With Jennifer.
12 Ways to Learn Vocabulary With The New York Times is a nice collection.
Narrowing the Language Gap: The Case for Explicit Vocabulary Instruction is from Scholastic.
Adults, Peers Play Different Roles in ELLs’ School Readiness, Study Finds an Ed Week report on a very interesting study.
No Surprise In This Study: Language Learners Retain Vocabulary Better When Connected To Gestures & Images
Teaching Vocabulary in Word-Rich Classrooms is from Middleweb and offers some good instructional ideas.
Rachael Roberts – Learning vocabulary through reading appeared in Teaching English.
The British Council has a great collection of online vocabulary exercises.
Vocabulary Strategies in 15 Minutes! is a useful post.
Vocabulary Review Activity for Teenagers is from Lizzie Pinard.
Test Your Vocab is an online tool where learners can get a rough estimate of how many words they know in English. I think it could be a useful tool for students to periodically use to measure their progress and get re-energized when they see how much they’re making.
A treasure trove of research on vocabulary acquisition maintained by Paul Meara http://t.co/lz5ofZeqSO #ELTchat #EFL #ESL
— MarisaConstantinides (@Marisa_C) July 17, 2015
ROOT MAP: A Vocabulary Instruction Model is from Literacy SENse.
Very useful > How can we improve the vocabulary knowledge of students? via @shaun_allison https://t.co/s0AVdwrgeh
— Carl Hendrick (@C_Hendrick) November 15, 2015
Really appreciated this post on vocabulary from @JAMingay https://t.co/2m5ajs53ej
— Doug Lemov (@Doug_Lemov) November 11, 2015
Giving Students a Well-Deserved Break- 13 Addictive Word Games is from Blog de Cristina.
Re-envisioning Vocabulary Instruction is by Sonja Cherry-Paul.
Selecting Vocabulary Words to Teach English Language Learners is from Colorin Colorado.
How Many Repetitions Do You Need In Order To Learn A New Word?
No Surprise To ELL Teachers: Study Finds Drawing Words Helps In Learning Them
10 Ideas for Vocabulary Instruction in Math is from Corwin Connect.
Nine ways to revise English vocabulary using slips of paper is from The British Council.
10 commonly made mistakes in vocabulary instruction is from The Language Gym.
L2 Vocabulary Research and Instructional Practices: Where Are the Gaps? is a very useful article from TESL-EJ.
10 commonly made mistakes in vocabulary instruction is from The Language Gym.
A Systematic Review of the Research on Vocabulary Instruction That Impacts Text Comprehension is from The International Literacy Association. It’s behind a paywall, but looks like it might be worth the money.
Bringing “Sophistication” to Vocabulary Instruction is by Russ Walsh.
The British Council has a nice collection of Word Games.
Here’s the Memory Trick That Science Says Works is from TIME.
Five simple games for teaching vocabulary is by Mike Astbury.
Brain-Friendly Strategies for Your Vocab Toolbox is from Middleweb.
ELT Stories shares some nice vocabulary activities.
How many new words should you teach per lesson? is by Gianfranco Conti.
Tried this today except with the suffix -able in the center. One student came up with teachable, erasable, and playable. #coteaching pic.twitter.com/7z9sIIA2l1
— Katie Toppel, Ed.D. (@Toppel_ELD) October 24, 2017
Helping English Learners Build Vocabulary is by Jana Echevarria.
Seven Step Vocabulary is a video from The Teaching Channel.
If the Frayer model is new to you, here’s a description of how to use it. #HackLearning pic.twitter.com/rMnB5w6URy
— Connie Hamilton Ed.S (@conniehamilton) June 17, 2018
The latest research on teaching vocabulary is from The Language Teacher Toolkit.
A Game of Cards to Revise Vocabulary in a Speaking Activity. Effective, Engaging and No-Prep. is from `Blog de Cristina.
ANOTHER STUDY FINDS WHAT EVERY ELL TEACHER KNOWS – HAVING STUDENTS DRAW PICTURES HELPS THEM LEARN VOCABULARY
GUEST POST: MAKE WORDS MAKE SENSE
Other suggestions are always welcome.
Here are my slides on culturally responsive vocabulary ideas from the #OSLA19 conference. The ideas are based on @Ready4rigor‘s suggestion to storify, gameify, and make learning social. ==> https://t.co/kBzP2mUwzt. Word of caution: activities alone do not constitute CRT!
— Katie Toppel, Ed.D. (@Toppel_ELD) February 11, 2019
Today I tried something new with my newcomers…and. It. Was. Awesome!
We took our 5 new vocabulary words and made up a story incorporating all the words in it.
I modeled first – then they worked with a partner to create their own.
Impressive & creative work in #CHS_ESL 💛 pic.twitter.com/Owi6qrz9eR
— Emily Fɾαɳƈιʂ 💫 (@emilyfranESL) March 11, 2019
5 Tips for Defining Unknown Words Using Context Clues is from Catlin Tucker.
New study explains a secret to more efficient learning suggests that when teaching vocabulary, for example, it’s more effective to show the object (or an image of the object) prior to introducing the word for that object.
Worksheet-free Vocab Revision Activities is from Claire’s ELT Compendium.
Five Things Every Teacher Should Know about Vocabulary Instruction is by Timothy Shanahan.
Effective Vocabulary Instruction Fosters Knowing Words, Using Words, and Understanding How Words Work has some useful info.
25 ideas for using unit word lists in the classroom is from Oxford University Press.
Digital Dialects has good interactive vocabulary games.
How (Not) to Teach English Vocabulary is from CATESOL.
Effective vocabulary instruction for #ELs
✅helps with comprehension
✅expands students' listening, speaking, reading, & writing vocabulary
✅leads to greater engagement & motivation to learn.
To make a copy of the #ELL2point0 infographic, click
— Irina McGrath, Ph.D. (@irina_mcgrath) April 18, 2023
For context: https://t.co/GXgG9KJlWI
— Shawna Coppola, M.Ed., Reading (@ShawnaCoppola) May 8, 2023
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.
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!
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.
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!
One more site for you great list:
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,
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for all this wonderful information and since we´re talking about learning and teaching English, I would like to suggest to all those Spanish teachers of English that at one point might need some training or would like to refresh their English knowledge, to visit: http://www.myoxfordenglish.es/moe/formacion-continua.aspx
It´s a great resource.
I also find http://www.vocabularyclub.com a good resource for learning foreign language vocabulary.