What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this vocabulary-building site probably won't serve as kids' sole reference; the amount of information they can learn is limited. However, it can be used to help reinforce language concepts for kids who are visual learners, and because users don't need to submit personal information or sign up for the site, it provides a safe online experience.
What kids can learn
Language & Reading
- letter or word recognition
- historical figures
Thinking & Reasoning
- part-whole relationships
- academic development
- personal growth
Engagement, Approach, Support
There aren't many (or any, really) extras to pique kids' interest. The design is simple; although users may find looking up words fun for awhile, because the experience doesn't change or progress, there isn't much to encourage repeat use.
Vocab info is available, but it isn't baked into anything fun; it's just there. Use of the site could create a curiosity about words that may improve reading and comprehension skills.
A brief rundown explains the symbols used to show word relationships. English is the only language the site supports, but the database seems to include a few words from French and Spanish.
What's it about?
Using information from Princeton's researcher-and-student-created WordNet open source database, Visuwords provides meaning and usage examples and shows a word's connection to other terms and concepts. Synonyms branch off from the original term in a tree-like diagram. Color-coded dots indicate if the word is a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb; dotted and solid lines highlight verb group connections. Kids also learn if a word describes a type of something, such as wheat being a type of grain, or serves as an example of a larger topic.
Is it any good?
VISUWORDS says its content is ideal for "writers, journalists, students, teachers, and artists." Those groups (and others) would likely benefit from the site's visual thesaurus capabilities, which show how words are connected. Kids see terms branch off from other words, indicating how verbs, adjectives, nouns, and adverbs relate, which can help them increase their vocabulary and better understand usage. However, the database appears to be somewhat limited; some words don't connect to many other terms. Visuwords also provides a pretty insulated, repetitive experience. Kids don't get feedback on what they're doing, and aside from searching for a term, the only other site activity involves requesting a randomly generated word. Visuwords may help kids build on the language lessons they're learning in school and serve as an occasional resource--but don't expect it to fully replace the need for word-centric reference materials.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how words connect to each other, hyponyms and hypernyms, and how they're used in sentences. Can your child think of an example where it would be better to use a word that describes a specific part of an action or item, instead of a more general term?
Visuwords offers a visual view of how words relate. Does knowing how words are similar help you speak or write more clearly?
Are there any other subjects your child shows interest in that you can help research online? Can you find any similar visual aids that help thoroughly explain a topic?