Vocabulary Software Review

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Saint Michael’s College

Instructor: Christine Bauer-Ramazani

GSL 520 Computer Assisted Language Learning

November 17, 1998

Noriko Koizumi

Title: WordSmart: Think Speak and Write Better

Volume C: A-J

Volume Difficult for the average…. Easy for the average…


4th grade student 12th grade student


5th grade student 1st year college student


6th grade student 2nd year college student


7th grade student 3rd year college student


8th grade student 4th year college student


9th grade student 1st year graduate student


10th grade student 2nd year graduate student


11th grade student Ph.D.


12th grade student Ph.D.


1st year college student Ph.D.

Subject: Vocabulary

Publisher: Samartek

ESL Level: High Intermediate to Advanced

Adult Interest: Designed for teens to adult learners, high interest

Hardware Needed: IBM or Mac with speakers or microphone, Cost: $49.95

Minimum System Required: 386SX or better, CD-ROM Drive, DOS 3.3 or later, 4 MB RAM, VGA Display, Windows 3.1, and Soundblaster Compatible Sound Card.

Time Needed: 50 minutes

Group size: Individually recommended

User Friendliness: High

Prerequistite Skills or Activities: There is no difficult computer skills required using this program.. However, you need to connect a speaker or a microphone to each computer to use the audio effect.

Program Description: The main screen presents the following options available by double clicking on the displayed words of each option: Volume and Group Selections, Talking Word List, Multiple Choice with Audio Discussions, Flashcards, Column Talking, Sentence Completion, Laser Review, Help.


Volume and Group Selection: There are 13 groups to select from the list. When Ss click each group, it shows the date of last used, scores of Laser Review, Column Matching, and Sentence Completion. It also shows numbers of Audio Discussion words, and of Missed Words when Ss used Sentence Completion.

Talking Word List: It is the list of words that come from Audio Discussions. These words are not only the defined words, but also many words of defining words. When Ss double-click one of the word, Ss can hear the pronunciation of the word, or go to audio discussion that are used as a defined word or a defining word. If the word is defined word, Ss can go to quiz (multiple choices).

Multiple Choice with Audio Discussion: It is a multiple-choice quiz, which Ss have to choose the correct meaning (synonyms) from the list. In this exercise, a sentence is shown above the list of possible synonym words. If a student choose a wrong answer, he can still choose a correct answer until you get it. If Ss finish the multiple-choice quiz, the program goes to Audio Discussion automatically. The Audio Discussion has full encyclopedia explanations teaching usage, meanings and word history.

Flash cards: Flash cards provide a simple way to become comfortable with new group of the words. In this exercise, a word and a sentence are shown, after a small delay the synonym is shown. Ss should try to guess what the synonym is before it is displayed. Ss may repeat the group as many as you like. If Ss would like to hear Audio Discussion, there is the shortcut bottom for it.

Column Matching: In this exercise, Ss will be moving the words in the column on the left to their matching synonyms in the right column. When Ss have moved all the words to the second column, the student’s choice will be scored and the last half of the group will appear.

Sentence Completion: Ss type the word on the blank line in the sentence. When Ss have completed their spellings, press Enter key. After you press Enter, the correct spelling is displayed in a list on the right side of the chalkboard. A yellow star indicates the correct spelling, and a red X indicates incorrect spelling. When Ss spell the word that is close to the correct answer, Ss can try it again! Moreover, Ss can call up the list of words as hints by clicking the word list button.

Laser Review: This is the most exciting game in this program!!! Each key is displayed in a sentence and five other words are displayed floating in asteroids. S must maneuver his laser tank beneath the correct synonym and fire before time expires on his oxygen meter. Laser Review can run at three different speeds: Regular, 30 seconds per word; Fast, 2o seconds per word, Super fast, 10 seconds, per word. Ss can change the speed in the middle of an exercise by clicking one of the different speeds below laser tank. Moreover, Ss can change the action whether shooting the correct answer or shooting all the wrong answers. Ss can also change the words floating in asteroid; not moving, moving, moving fast.

Help: It provides most of the explanation how to use most of the exercises in the program. It also works like Help in Microsoft Word. Ss can get most of information needed from it when they type the key words. These files are detailed and helpful.


___ Demonstration _X__ Problem-Solving _X_ Drill

_X_ Simulation _X_ Informational _X_ Tutorial

X_ Game X_ Student Tool ___ Teacher Tool

___ ESL-Specific _X_ Non-ESL Specific __X__ Word Processing X_ Testing


__X_ Reading, ___ Speaking, __X_Writing, __X_ Vocabulary, ___ Grammar

X_ Listening ___ Cultural Competence, ___ Conversational


Program Operation:

X_ Easy to follow ____ Not Clear

___ Cause frustration _X_ Students can control the program

X_ Student can exit anytime X_ Has Record Keeping

X_ Required Correct Spelling ___ Has Authoring Function

___ Easy to fit the curriculum X_Easy to explain to class

___ Require instructional support


The program reinforces the core vocabulary by using many kinds of exercises in the program. Moreover, you do not have to know a lot about the computer to use this program. Even before you read the information, you can start using the program just clicking the object. However, there are a lot of disadvantages using this program because it is not made for ESL students. I would like to point out them later.


_X_ Well Organized X_ Encourage students ___ Not Useful

X_ Helpful Response to Errors


It provides students with immediate feedback. Especially, when Ss use the Sentence Completion and make an error (one letter misspelling), the computer tells Ss that they have one letter wrong and have a chance to try it again. Most exercises are a kind of testing; so, you will get immediate score with correct answers. However, all exercises can access to Audio Discussion from the site. It provides students with immediate reviews about the words, so that they can understand the word fully in that way. As advanced students, this kind of feedback is enough for them to understand the vocabulary. Moreover, feedback for vocabularies does not have many ways to do that. The simple is the best for vocabulary testing!!!!


X_ Well Organized X_ Well Sequenced X_ Enjoyable

X_ Interesting X_ Factually Correct X_ Helpful Learning

X_ Provides effective practice

_X_ Introduces new language understandably

X_ Provides meaningful interaction between computer and learner

___ Provides communicative interaction between students

X_ Create Challenge without anxiety

X_ Free of excessive violence

X_ Free of stereotypes

X_Takes advantage of computer’s unique capability


This is a very interesting program for especially teenager because this program is like a computer game. So, it encourages students to learn more vocabularies without any anxiety at all.

Program Output

X_ Attractive Screen X_ Color ___ Video

X_ Attractive Graphics X_ Attractive Sounds

X_ Personalization

Example(s) for applying this program in the classroom: Many advanced students think their problems in English are the lack of vocabulary. When Ss reached advanced level, they started to use skimming skills while reading the text. So, they do not increase a lot of active vocabulary. However, this program can be used for self-improvement at home. Most of vocabularies used here facilitate students to improve their academic writing. So, the teacher can give students writing assignment based on the vocabulary they have learned in the program. The teacher has to search for good themes or topics, which can facilitate students to use the vocabulary from the program.

Other possibility to use this software in the classroom is that students can make a story to use the vocabulary after learning the vocabulary in the program. Since the students are supposed to be advanced level, they can make a story by themselves to use the words. To make it interesting, one student makes a one sentence using one of the words they have learned in the program and give it next student. The next student has to continue the story to use another words from the program. Finally, students can make a complete story with other students as a group activity. It is an interesting activity because students can make a fun story, which the first writer has not imagined how the story can sequence by the other students.

Overall Opinion

__ Highly Recommended Program X_ Pretty Good ___ Useful

___ OK X_ Modification Needed ___ Not Useful

Best Part of Program

Students can learn vocabulary without writing same words again and again

( traditional patterns of memorization). Moreover, they can learn how to use the vocabulary in a sentence because some of the exercises present a sentence using the core vocabulary. What I like most in this program is that it is FUN! Especially, shooting game makes excite students to learn vocabulary. It is really good program for teenage-boys which tend to be lazy to do something. Moreover, there are a lot of ways to reinforce the same vocabulary again and again. While playing games, Ss learn a lot of vocabulary!!

Ss can hear proper pronunciation of over 5,00 words in the program. A human voice provides more than 5 hours of full encyclopedic explanations teaching usage, meanings and word history. Ss have opportunities to hear a lot of real English from the program!!

Worst part of Program

Since the program is not specified for ESL students, there are a lot of disadvantages using this program. First, vocabularies are presented in sentence level in the program. Since the core vocabularies are divided into 13 groups, it would be better if they were divided by theme and presented a paragraph reading using the vocabularies in a group. So, the students can understand the vocabulary better form the passage and improve reading skills at the same time. If the program presented a passage using the vocabulary in a group, the program can be used in a classroom setting easily as reading and writing classes.

Second, if the program were used for ESL students, it would be better to have speech recognition systems in the program so that students can practice their pronunciation. For ESL students, the more difficult vocabulary is, the more difficult pronounce them. It is not enough for them to listen to the correct pronunciations. They need to know how well they can pronounce the word to use the vocabulary in oral interactions, too.

Comments: This software would be very useful for Native speakers of English who would like to enhance their vocabulary. This software would be good for Advanced ESL students to enhance their vocabulary even though it has limited for non-native speakers. It provides excellent exercises to reinforce their vocabulary skills! However, I will recommend this software for self-study at home not in a classroom setting.


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