Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: VocabularySpellingCity

I want to share one of the best Spelling review programs I have ever tried with my children: VocabularySpellingCity.  I recently received a one year premium membership to this site through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I have been a fan of VocabularySpellingCity for many years now. In the beginning years of homeschooling, my kids struggled somewhat with their spelling lists, and I did not find copying them over and over to be an effective way to study. I was not always able to be consistent with playing little games and coming up with creative ways to help them try to remember their words, so I started searching for an alternative to help.  That is when our relationship with this program began, and I have never regretted it for one moment. I don't think you will either!

What is VocabularySpellingCity?  It is an online, interactive website that allows you to input your own spelling and vocabulary lists for practice, or to choose from ready-made lists at any grade level for your child to use. There are several avenues of learning - first the student can learn a new list via flashcards, then there are multiple games and activities to practice that list, followed by a practice test. Finally, the student can actually take their spelling test for that particular set of words right on the website. As the teacher/parent, you can choose lists or input one from a curriculum you already have. You can plan out how your students will study that list by selecting assignments and putting it on their account. All of their activity on the website is recorded, including what words they are consistently having difficulty with. Their practice test and spelling test grades are recorded for you as well. It is a wonderful way to have your student accountable for their work and their study, and to track their progress!

What grade levels are included? Since the teacher/parent can input their own words, this program is appropriate for all grade levels, K-12. The youngest students, just learning to read, will benefit from the fun, interactive ways to learn new words. College bound high schoolers who want to practice vocabulary lists to prepare for their SAT will also find lists that will help them. There are even foreign language spelling lists available for those who are learning a second language.

What other subjects are covered? There are additional activities that help the student practice alphabetical order, handwriting, definitions, writing and sentence structure, and parts of speech.

Not just for your PC: VocabularySpellingCity has a mobile app that can be downloaded to iPads, iPods, or iPhones. It is free, and included with a premium membership. All of the student's accounts, and most of the games can be accessed from the app, and it makes it very convenient to practice when you are waiting somewhere, or when you have multiple children trying to use the program at once.

Is there a way to try it before you buy it? Yes! VocabularySpellingCity also has a free membership. While it does not offer nearly as much as the paid membership, it is enough to allow you to try it out to see if it would work for your students! Here is a comparison between the benefits of the free basic membership and the paid premium membership:

What does a premium membership cost? The premium membership is $29.99 for one year, gives full access to the site, and allows you to set up separate accounts for up to 5 students.

From the website:

We started off with a free membership, and the children got so much out of it, yet were so limited, that I decided it would definitely be worth the investment to jump up to the premium membership. There are so many different learning styles and activities covered, and there are constant updates. I don't even feel like we have scratched the surface of what is available, and we have really been using the program extensively!

How we are using VocabularySpellingCity:  Since the girls are all using Abeka spelling and vocabulary, there is no need for me to find new lists for them on the website. Instead, I type in their lists from their textbook, and then give them daily assignments of what I want them to cover. They take their practice spelling test on the website, and then their actual test as a paper version from their test booklet. Since the girls each get a new spelling and vocabulary list every 5 lessons, I have them use VocabularySpellingCity for review for four days out of the week. On the 4th day they will take their practice test on the website, and on the 5th day they don't log in, but take their actual paper test.

This is what I love: VocabularySpellingCity saves my lists over the years. Even if my membership lapses, as long as I sign up with the same email address, all my old lists are still there, and still accessible. This has saved me a lot of work entering new lists as the girls progress through school. The previous lists are already saved! I am also able to organize the lists into groups. I have mine organized by grade levels. For the vocabulary lists, the girls have to know the exact definition that is in the Abeka book for their test. The website allows me to enter my own definition and sentence for each vocabulary word, so it is exactly the same as what is in their textbook.

I also appreciate that I can go in to the teacher section, and see how much time was spent and what activities the children completed on the website. I can also be aware of what words are giving them the most trouble, so that I can do some extra work with those words if necessary. Here is an example of the chart showing how much time one of the girls spent on each activity, what percentage of words she got correct on the first attempt, and what words need more review.

This is what the girls love: Here are some screenshots of their favorite games: 

 Letter Fall - where the student has to catch the falling drops of water to spell their word.
Hang Mouse - where the student has to spell their word before the cat wakes up!

A final word on how this program has helped:  I am a numbers person who likes concrete proof that something is actually working. The bottom line is that when the girls were not using VocabularySpellingCity for reviewing their words, their averages on their weekly spelling and vocab tests ran at 75% to 80%. After using the program, their averages are 95% to 100% on their tests. It is rare for them to miss words on the test now. We have achieved this improvement with no tears, no fuss, and with less time spent reviewing words than before. The girls never enjoyed endlessly copying spelling lists anyways, and I have found this program's review methods to be much more effective!
I highly recommend VocabularySpellingCity for anyone, and especially for struggling spellers.
Click the banner below to see what other Crew members thought of this program after trying it out!
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