Research Study




Optimal for Word Study

VocabularySpellingCity transforms traditional word study into a more effective and deeply engaging experience for both teachers and students, two educators write in a recent study.

Tiffany Nielsen-Winkelman and Lynnea West, of the Learning Technologies and Elementary Education programs at University of Minnesota, say the combination of the traditional research-based instructional framework and VocabularySpellingCity’s educational technology create “optimal conditions for word study learning.”

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Vocabulary lists to use with VocabularySpellingCity

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Watch a video on how to use VocabularySpellingCity.

“VocabularySpellingCity is the only resource we’ve found that has the capacity to be paired with the Words Their Way approach to accomplish the goals of spelling, phonics and vocabulary instruction,” write Nielsen-Winkelman and West. “As educational technologies emerge and evolve, it is essential to use a critical eye toward the specific tool affordances when making decisions about instructional practice.”

The article, “Improving Word Study — Moving Beyond Paper and Pencil to Transformative Educational Technology,” was published in the June 2015 issue of Literacy Special Interest, the Journal of the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Literacy Professional Learning Network, in conjunction with the ISTE 2015 Conference.

Creating A Streamlined Process

Nielsen-Winkelman and West identified six key components for phonics, vocabulary and spelling instructional practices and used them to evaluate VocabularySpellingCity (VSC) and Words Their Way (WTW): (1) systematic instruction, (2) explicit/direct instruction, (3) making connections, (4) repeated exposure, (5) comprehension of material read silently or orally, and (6) oral reading of connected text.

Word Study Outcomes using VocabularySpellingCity and Words Their Way

Credit: Nielsen-Winkelman, Tiffany and West, Lynnea

The authors write that VocabularySpellingCity’s tools create a more streamlined, manageable process for both teachers and students using word lists. “With VocabularySpellingCity, the words are assigned to [individual students] in a click of a button and the activities are already developed in the tool, with highly engaging animation that also includes immediate feedback about their progress,” they write. “The student sees and hears this information instantly … [and] is seeing the words, hearing the words and creating an understanding of the words. The teacher is then able to use the time saved on administration and enhance the explicit instruction of words and their meanings.”

One essential way VocabularySpellingCity complements traditional text books, the authors say, is in presenting the words spoken aloud. The words are also “represented [aloud] in sentences, which provides the verbal pronunciation and the meaning and context of the words. Students can hear words to develop understanding in terms of how the words should be used.”

They point out how VocabularySpellingCity’s writing activities “enable students to actually create the contextual meaning for the words in their developmental sort. This is most critical for students to develop deeper meaning of the words as generated by context that is relevant to their own particular frames of reference.”

Time-Saving Assessments

A student’s progress in developing literacy skills can be assessed using VocabularySpellingCity’s “Test Me” feature.

“The inventory is quickly administered and independently completed. The results are immediately processed for both the student and the teacher. Both the student and teacher are aware of the results,” write Nielsen-Winkelman and West, in contrast to “the traditional paper and pencil approach often takes 45 minutes of student class time and about three hours of teacher time to complete the correcting of the inventory assessment and assigning of word sort lists.”

VocabularySpellingCity tools applied to the activities in traditional paper textbooks “afford students to be working with words at the correct developmental level more quickly, more often, with more performance feedback,” the authors conclude.

About the research authors

Lynnea West is an i-Learn Specialist for the Eden Prairie Schools in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. She is in the PhD program at the University of Minnesota in the College of Education and Human Development focusing in Learning Technologies.

Tiffany Nielsen-Winkelman is a graduate instructor, and research and training assistant, at the University of Minnesota. She is a PhD student with a dual major in Learning Technologies and Literacy.