Vocabulary Learning – Quizlet vs SpellingCity

Both Quizlet and SpellingCity provide a challenging and fun way to study vocabulary – so which is best? Actually “best” isn’t really a good or sensible question. It should really be: “In which set of circumstances is Quizlet or Spelling City the best choice?”

spelling cityquizlet

Let’s first of all look at what the two vocabulary learning programs offer:

They both offer free online list making capabilities. After you have typed in all your words, SpellingCity then takes you to a page where you are provided with a context sentence and a definition. You can then either accept that or create your own. With Quizlet you write in your word and then have a range of definitions offered to you – sometimes even foreign translations. This is often quite a range to scroll through – I see that it is quite popular for Hungarian teachers! You can of course add your own.

They both provide audio for their word lists. I would say the SpellingCity sounds more authentic, especially when combining words in making audio from a definition. But SpellingCity can really screw up with some phrases. Try typing in “such as” and it comes out as “such arkansaw” ! Quizlet handles it without a hiccup.

Their target groups intersect at students learning English vocabulary. This applies to native speakers and foreigners learning English. The emphasis on games and colours by SpellingCity would seem to suggest a target audience of primary school native English speakers, but it is still an excellent resource for foreign students of any age learning English.  Quizlet, on the other hand, encompasses a far greater range of students. It includes those studying academic subjects such as history and science. It also provides an amazing range of languages so students can type in their own language (including Arabic, Japanese and many others in their native scripts) with audio. A fantastic effort.

The one problem with Quizlet, from a pedagogical viewpoint, is that if you want to include a context sentence then you have to include it where you write the definition – leaving a blank where the word would appear in the sentence. This can create a very long part when read out by the program and makes it less speedy. SpellingCity provides a separate place for the context sentence which enables it to provide two matching exercises -one for definitions and one for context sentences.

Quizlet provides 2 games that are great for class competitions – scatter and race. Race is where students have to type out the correct answer in a given period of time – they lose marks if they fail to do so. Scatter is my favourite for motivating students in a competition. There is a clock that will stop when they have matched all the definitions and words by clicking on  them. The student with the lowest score is the winner. You could also get them to aim for personal high scores as a motivation for individuals to do better.

SpellingCity has a wider range of games. This isn’t always a plus as some of my classes enjoy playing games such as hangman that can take up a lot of class time for few words reviewed. The forlorn hope is that they will be motivated to do these exercises outside class.

The paid version of SpellingCity allows you keep track of student performance on spelling and vocabulary tests. For many teachers this will be the “killer” feature that encourages them to upgrade and use SpellingCity. In Quizlet teachers can’t rack student performance, not even with a premium account. Quizlet does offer the possibility of having leader boards, and for class games, that is a useful feature.

So when do I use SpellingCity? When I want to set work and track if students are doing it. When do I use Quizlet? When I want to reinforce some vocabulary from a reading we have done in class and motivate them with a competition in class. I use either if I just want to set extra possibilities for students to study on their own, although I think Quizlet just edges SpellingCity here as the games provide an incentive for speed and accuracy.

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