Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Visuwords: Word Webs to Help Build Vocabulary

Word webs can be a great way to teach students new vocabulary. Rather than simply examining the definition of a word, students have to arrange many words according to their meanings and thus consider finer points of their definitions as they determine how best to connect them. Visuwords, an innovative “online graphical dictionary” takes the idea of word webs to a completely different level.

With Visuwords (recommended for students in grade 5 and above), students can type just about any word (“rhythm” or “Jefferson”) or combination of words in common expressions (“blow up”) into the field at the top of the page, and moments later a word web will appear below. Using the key along the left edge of the screen, students can interpret the different colors and styles of connective lines to determine how the linked words are related to each other; options include “opposes” (e.g. “blow up” opposes “scale down”), “derivation" (e.g. “communicate” is a derivation of “communication”), “is a part of” (e.g. “photosynthesis” is a part of “light reaction”) and many, many more. The colored dot behind each word on the web indicates its part of speech. Best of all, a student can view definitions for any of the terms on the web by moving the mouse over a word, an ingenious way to provide lots of information without making the web too cluttered. Students can drag words around to make the web easier to view, or group similar concepts for deeper processing.

Visuwords can be a fantastic way to learn the shades of meaning inherent in complex words, and it can function as a thesaurus as well.

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