Build in-context vocabulary lists

List of word lists for SAT preparation
Words without context

Most vocabulary builders work in isolation. VocabGrabber works on vocabulary in the context of reading material that you — or your students — create from assigned reading.

By using VocabGrabber, you can develop vocabulary lists from any digitized text.  That means you can build a vocabulary list for your students knowing they will encounter those words in their reading. Words they use are more likely to be remembered than those they merely memorize for a quiz.

VocabGrabber is easy to use

You (or your students) paste a copied passage into the box on the VocabGrabber page and hit the button. (Or if you’ve installed the program in your browser, you can just click the bookmarklet to start the analysis without copying and pasting.) The software analyzes the passage and produces information about words used in it.

The data includes:

  • Word frequency (a key to thesis or theme identification).
  • Relationships of words to each other.
  • Parts of speech of the words as used in the passage.
  • Whether the word is part of a specialized vocabulary, such as technology, history or geography.
  • Definitions of words in the passage with illustrations of the word use in context.

Lists aid reading of complex texts

Being able to generate vocabulary lists easily simplifies preparing students for the kinds of deep analysis they need to read complex texts. By creating and comparing lists for different texts your students must read within a course or across the curriculum, you can determine which terms are most important to teach: They’ll appear on several lists.

Although VocabGrabber is a great tool for teaching literacy, it has two limitations:

  • It does not replace teaching. You have to show students how and why to use the tool.
  • Users need digitized text; print materials won’t work.

If you are teaching a literary classic in the public domain (a Jane Austen novel, for example), or using articles from an online database, finding digital copies won’t be a problem.

If you want Josh and Caitlin to work with their history textbook, you may not find a digital copy.


An earlier version of this article appeared in June 2009 issue of Writing Points © 2009 Linda Aragoni

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