Visuwords

Website review by
Erin Brereton, Common Sense Media
Visuwords Website Poster Image
Sparse site has potential but offers limited info on vocab.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational Value

Kids can learn how select words are used in a sentence and if the word is a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. They can find other words to describe something when writing or speaking and will learn how two terms relate to each other. The vocabulary-building help is great, but sadly, there isn't much to do on the site. Visuwords doesn't offer much written content to round out the experience, and kids can't ask questions if they get confused. Overall, it's a little too simple to provide significant writing or grammar help. Augmenting Visuwords with articles or other explanatory content would make the site a stronger language resource.

Positive Messages
Violence
Sex

Words like sex and porn are included in the database and link to words like smut and sexual activity.

Language

There's a learning intent to it, but kids can look up words like sh*t and f*ck on the site.

Consumerism

Pages have an ad word header, and the site features banner ads for various products.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References generally just offer alternate names for specific drugs, but a few dubious comments--such as marijuana being described as a "soft drug" that is "considered relatively mild"--are present.

What 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.

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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.

Talk to your kids 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?

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Website details

For kids who love Words

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