The VocabularySpellingCity App has ranked among Homeschool.com’s Top 100 Educational Websites every year since 2009. That’s pretty impressive.
So the question is, what is it like, and what does it have to offer? And more importantly, how beneficial would it be for your child, and is it worth the cost?
In this article, we’re going to conduct a thorough review of the app, assessing it against a number of important factors…
We’ll start with a brief overview, before assessing its attractiveness to kids, its educational value, the variety of activities, the presence of a reward system, whether there are progressive challenges in the games, and user reviews.
We’ll then look into whether it’s good value for money, note any drawbacks, and suggest some alternative apps, before wrapping up with our final verdict.
Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section of particular interest to you.
The VocabularySpellingCity App is a literacy app with a particularly strong emphasis on vocabulary building and retention. And while it does get downloaded by parents for their kids, it appears to be more centered around providing a useful resource for schools and schoolwork.
The description says it is aimed at children ages 5 and upwards, though it definitely seems to be more suited to kids of elementary school age rather than high school age.
The app is available on all the major operating systems, including Windows, Android, Kindle, iPads, and Chrome OS.
Attractiveness to Children
The graphics on the app are very bright and colorful and cheerful. And it’s certainly more attention grabbing than the old-fashioned means of testing spelling, using black and white pen and paper.
However, we would argue that the graphics are a little lacking, especially for the spelling games, with most of the screen going unused. We would also argue that the graphics are unimaginative, and there is no real story or goal behind why the kids should play these games and carry out these tasks.
In their blurb, the Learning A-Z Company, which owns the VocabularySpellingCity app, mentions that according to the National Research Council, 70% of problems in comprehending texts are down to poor vocabulary. And we would agree that that’s a significant proportion.
The Learning A-Z Company then goes on to add that one of the real issues is that while new words can be easy enough for a child to memorize for a brief period of time, retaining these new words in your memory is another matter entirely.
They argue that repeated practice ensures that your child is in a far better position to retain the spelling and meaning of words.
We agree with this philosophy. But this can also be done with flashcards, and written spelling tests, so this in and of itself doesn’t generate so much value.
However, where this app outperforms flashcards and written spelling tests is that the sounds of words are also provided, so your child will learn how words are pronounced.
And this is a very important communication skill. And once they learn how certain sounds are represented in combinations of letters, this can in turn help them learn to spell other words.
Moreover, in the app, words are introduced in context, which we would argue is essential for accurate comprehension. Merely listing a set of words for kids to learn how to spell is just not going to help in this regard.
The children also get a chance to review their work before they submit it. This gives them a second chance if they didn’t get things right the first time around, and it encourages testing of their observation skills.
So, all in all, this app does offer great educational value, teaching the likes of vocabulary, spelling, phonics, antonyms, and so forth. And this makes it a very worthwhile app for teaching kids about literacy.
But there are some areas where it is lacking as a literacy app. It doesn’t test understanding the same way that a traditional English comprehension test does, where the child reads a passage of text and answers questions on it. Nor does it really help with or test grammar and punctuation, which are also very important elements of literacy.
Variety of Activities
There are over 35 games available for the children to play when they are under the Premium Membership scheme.
The games are very easy for children to follow and understand, and they will not require a set of written instructions to follow, the games are very intuitive and easy to play.
The VocabularySpellingCity app is predominantly popular for it’s spelling games, whereby the child hears a word spoken in context, and then has to spell out that word.
The child should be able to instantly recognize the spoken word, and have sufficient knowledge of the alphabet to at least try to spell out each word. The app will then tell them when they are wrong so that they can correct their mistakes.
The remaining games available are equally easy to follow and play. They may involve matching words to sentences with a missing word, or finding the antonym of a word from a selection, or dividing words into categories according to how many syllables they contain.
Reward System and Progress Tracker
Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of a reward system for the children as they progress and pass their vocabulary and spelling games.
There is however a good tracking system that parents can check up on. One look at the dashboard will tell you which games your child has played, what their final score was, and how long each game took them to play.
The most obvious way to build on the child’s first few games, is to add in less familiar words. Perhaps longer ones with more syllables and more obscure meanings
But, in order to make the games more challenging for students, it is down to the teachers and parents to add more words into the app’s collection. And while this is simply part of the job for teachers, it can be a rather time-consuming task for parents to carry out in their free time.
As with most other kids apps for smartphones and tablets, there is a very high proportion of 5-star reviews.
But this is pretty much standard, and is not necessarily a strong indicator that an app is really good. Most people only bother to leave reviews on products if they are either particularly impressed or unimpressed with a product.
But what’s particularly noteworthy about the user reviews for this app is that there is a particularly large proportion of negative 1-star reviews. The most common complaints seem to be about not being able to log in, the app is lagging, the sound is too quiet, and the voice is creepy.
And even with such a high proportion of positive 5 and 4-star reviews, the proportion of negative user reviews really drags the average user rating down. Whereas the best educational apps have a user rating of 4.3 stars, this one only comes in at 3.7 stars, which we would consider to be relatively poor.
Value for Money
While the app is free to download, unfortunately it is not free to play. If you download the app, you will have access to a free demonstration of some of the games, it is just that, a demonstration. And a poor one at that. It does not give you a full demonstration of what the app can do and what it has to offer.
Thus, the free games on the app are very limited, and to get any real value from it you will need to subscribe for paid membership.
Ok, we’re going to level with you here. While this may be an affordable option for schools, it is not so affordable for parents who want to help boost their children’s education at home. Premium membership was set at $60 per year towards the end of 2020 for up to 25 students. Per month, that works out at $12.
Unfortunately, the high membership fees are not the only drawback to this app…
Another big drawback is that the teacher or parent setting up the app, and it’s activities, has to enter all the words that you want the child/children to learn. It is not there automatically.
And this can be particularly time-consuming for parents, especially if you don’t already have a good idea of what words you want your child to learn.
We would argue that this is a great app for teachers and schools to set up for their students to supplement the rest of their education of the English Language.
We don’t really recommend it for parents, however, due to both the high subscription fees, and all the work involved in adding all the words to the system.
Fortunately, however, there are some really great alternatives out there. We particularly like Vocab Victor English Word Game, Edudadoo, and Spellwizards.