online vocabulary

4 Online Vocabulary Resources for Teachers

Online Education Teaching Online


Who doesn’t love words? Whether used to show off or to articulately convey an idea, there is an undeniable pleasure when you have the right word for the occasion. As a teacher, I love to teach vocabulary because it is an easy and useful lesson. I love the ritual of the weekly vocabulary test and quiz. It is an easy, fun and important way to spend time in the classroom.

I am running two programs this year. One is an actual classroom, with live, real time, real life kids. The other is an online program, with real, albeit distant, learners in the WizIQ virtual classroom. Both are going to have the same vocabulary program.

I am not going to simply buy a workbook, nor am I going to write every list from scratch, based upon what we are reading. I am seeking a creative middle ground this year.

I also want the lessons to be easily available online because I am going to give lessons out for free in an attempt to create a following of students and a market for my future courses.

Here is the vocabulary vision:

  • The words will have multimedia definitions. In other words, the words will be defined with voice, pictures, and perhaps a video.
  • There will be engaging and interactive games that the kids can play alone or with each other.
  • There will be an easy mechanism to create clever and entertaining tests and quizzes.

The Pieces to Create the Vision:

Surprisingly enough, despite an extensive search, I could not find one program that met all of these requirements, for free. If you find one, please let me know. After looking for days, I realized it would be more time-effective to piece together the best elements of each website.

Resources for Multimedia Definitions:

  • For multimedia definitions, there is no beating Gotbrainy. Got Brainy offers homemade visual video clips and pictures to define words. Many of them are made by students. Here is a video for “Speculative” and a picture for the word “Bashful”.  The videos are available on YouTube, making them easy to access for use in the online classroom.
  • VocabAhead is much more standard, though also much more thorough. While this site lacks the humor and playfulness of Got Brainy, it has a clear and concise video definition of every word that you could possibly need to be defined. Vocab Ahead also has options to create a class and quiz your students.

Engaging and Interactive Games:

  • Free Rice is an undeniable resource for both teachers and hungry people throughout the world. Free Rice is a not-for-profit website owned by the United Nations World Food Program. Through the clever use of advertising funds, the organization has generated a method to allow learners to “earn” grains of rice by correctly answering questions. The game uses an algorithm which offers questions that are neither too easy nor too hard for learners and it remembers questions that the learner got wrong and asks it again, later. This gives the students many chances to learn and master new words. The site also allows teachers to create classes, so that students can work together and challenge each other to earn more rice. One of the many lovely aspects of this site is that the smartest child does not necessarily earn the most rice. You can earn a lot of rice whatever level you are at.
  • VocabTest is another great resource for interactive games. This site has a memory game.

The site also creates crossword puzzles and word searches for the same list of words. The biggest catch is that it is not possible to create your own vocab lists. You have to use the lists that are already there. That said, they have the lists for many popular vocabulary workbooks, including Wordly Wise and The Vocabulary Workshop.

The Plan

Every Monday, in both the face to face classroom and my online classroom, I am going to introduce the week’s words. I will use the lists available through the Wordly Wise Web site. I will introduce the words by simply reading through the words and talking about them, though I will supplement the list with enjoyable videos clips and pictures from Get Brainy and more standard definitions from VocabAhead. The students will then work together to get to know the words. Perhaps I will have them doodle around the words, make up silly sentences to define the words, or draw pictures that help them remember the words.

I will give the students easy access to the games on the Vocab Test site. By using the World Wise list, it makes all of the games on VocabTest available to my learners. Also, the Wordly Wise site has games, though their games are organized every 4 units, so I will assign those games for review every four weeks.

I will form a group on Free Rice and encourage the kids to spend some time every week on that site.

Finally, every Friday, the kids will take a quiz. I will use the WizIQ test and assessment to create the quiz. All of this will be available on the class blog, so that kids can find easily find their work and get it done.

If you have some interesting ideas or resources to encourage students to learn vocabulary this year, feel free to share them in comments below!


I am a teacher, hiker, mother, dancer and home-maker. I have taught pre-school through SAT prep. I am exploring ways to create on-line learning communities for home-schooled middle school and high school students. In particular, I am starting a low-residency on-line middle school. I would like to help young people explore important ideas while enjoying their lives! You can learn more about my programs at

2 thoughts on “4 Online Vocabulary Resources for Teachers

  1. Reading is good “Passive” way of improving vocabulary, but when you are resorting to making lists, that is “Active” method. Problem with active method of learning words is that it is cumbersome and boring, and you doing retain and unless you use it in writing sentences to apply the word, very little chance is that you increase your lexical size.

    Improve Your Vocabulary – is an active learning tool which is personalized and makes sure you grasp the learnt words by applying it. It is lot of fun too as you can play vocab challenges with your friends.

    Give it a shot!

    1. Thanks Dashmeet, for this great suggestion. We will definitely give Vocabmonk a shot and then probably let you know. Thanks so much!

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