More Tech Tools for Building Vocabulary and Reading Skills

It’s often amazing how much information teachers are able to share within their short presentations at the Electronic Village at TESOL each year. Back in Seattle, I was fortunate to sit at the computer station with Bridget Green of Gonzaga University. Through her talk Focus on Vocab and Reading with Profilers, Sizers, and Rewordify I learned about several online tools. (Click to see her presentation online.)

A compact and informative resource is Just The Word. Type in a word and get lists of collocations. I say “lists” in the plural because the results are conveniently grouped by grammar structure. For example, when I did a search for ‘select,’ I was able to view groups of combinations, such as select + an object OR select + adverb. The formatting quickly shows which collocations are frequently used. In addition, if you click on a collocation, you’ll then see them in context. The examples are from the British National Corpus.

VocabKitchen is quite an amazing vocabulary profiler. Not only can you do the typical text analysis, quickly identifying the difficulty of the vocabulary used in a text (based on the AWL and CEFR), but you can also share a text with students via the Social Reader Tool. Why would you do that? For one thing, you can select and share the most appropriate definitions with students. Students can also click on unknown words, and that data is then shared with you to inform your teaching.

Teachers working within the Common European Framework will appreciate EnglishProfile: The CEFR for English. The site offers a Vocabulary Profile and a Grammar Profile. Both are free. Bridget demonstrated what the vocabulary platform could do. First off, there’s the word list. It’s more than a dictionary. Teachers can search for words or phrases and display British or American English entries and all their respective definitions. The site clearly identifies the level of all words. Do you want to know how a certain modal verb is used at different levels? Do you want a list of food or clothing vocabulary at one specific level? The site can provide this. It’s worth playing around with the advanced filters. In addition, the text inspector is helpful even for those not working with the CE. You can copy and paste a text up to 500 words and quickly see how the words are sorted by difficulty. This can guide a private teacher like me in choosing what words to teach when we read an online text with our students.

Is a text initially too challenging for a student? You might consider simplifying it. Bridget presented Rewordify as an option. Copy and paste a text and see both the original and a simplified version side by side. I see this as a tool for independent reading. The site has a library of public domain texts, from classic literature to public documents. When students log in, they can save words to study.

If you like the idea behind Rewordify, you might also appreciate (“summary”). I learned about this site from another attendee at this EV session in Seattle. James May of Valencia College quickly showed Bridget and me how SMMRY can reduce a long text to the most important sentences. This tool could support independent reading or even an assigned reading. A quick summary can refresh a student’s memory or help one focus on the key points of a sizable text.

A final tool to consider is My Vocabulary Size. Teachers and students can take the free test to establish a benchmark. I decided to try it, posing as a native Russian speaker. The instructions are given in the user’s L1. I was presented with 140 multiple-choice questions. Within about 15 or 20 minutes I matched English words to Russian definitions. At the end, the site told me how many word families I knew. Bridget suggested that students take the test and send a screenshot to the teacher. I’m eager to have some of my private students take the test so that we can compare results, say, six months out or one year from now.

Which of these tools will you use?

A big thank you to Bridget Green for generously sharing so many resources!

Photo credit: Tools, Work, Repair, Hammer by Astryd_MAD. Retrieved from the Public Domain at


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