Vocabulary Quest® is a sophisticated, online game for learning vocabulary and spelling that should be good for students in about fifth grade and up. The game is also great for adults who want to improve their vocabulary.
This is a beautifully designed game with warriors, swords, and quests to complete. While the player advances to different levels, the play is essentially the same throughout the game: players win by identifying words and their definitions and by spelling them correctly.
More than 1,200 words are included in the game. You can customize those words into your own groups or use the default setup. Even at the easy level, not all of the words are likely to be familiar to students. The publisher says that the included words provide “excellent review for SAT®, ACT®, and GRE [Graduate Record Examination®] tests.”
Students will tackle groups of five words at a time, working through preliminary activities before they are ready to battle a monster in the arena game. The preliminaries begin with a flashcard activity to learn the meanings of new words. The flashcards include definitions and example sentences. Practice exercises that come next are set up sort of like games; students have the option to complete four different types of exercises: multiple choice, matching, a crossword puzzle, and fill in the blanks. All of these activities help students become familiar with the five words, their definitions, and how to spell them. Students have to remember the words from their list for the crossword puzzle and the fill-in-the-blank activity, so doing the other preliminary activities helps cement the words in their brains.
Players can actually skip any of the preliminary activities and go straight to the arena game if they are confident they already know the meanings of the words. For the culminating battle for each group of words, students are given only definitions and/or synonyms unless they’ve pre-selected the easier-play option (during setup) which shows a word bank during the arena game. Having worked through the preliminary activities makes it easier to quickly come up with the correct answers in the battle, but they still might be hard to recall. The word bank essentially makes the game a multiple-choice activity rather than one that relies solely on memory. So the word bank might prove to be an important feature for some students to prevent frustration.
The game can be customized in many ways. Players can choose the appearance of their avatar. They can select the level of difficulty and time allowed for responses. There’s lovely lilting music playing in the background that can be turned on or off. As players progress, they have even more options.
As players progress, they can join guilds (not with other players) and get special powers and gear. During the battles, hints are available, but they come at a price by lowering the player's score. The game tracks the student’s progress, and it brings up words for review that were missed previously.
Vocabulary Quest is available either as a digital download or on a CD. The game is available only for Windows systems right now, but a Mac version is in the works. There is a free, downloadable demo that gives you a good idea of how it works.
I know that many students will prefer this approach for learning vocabulary over a workbook.