Mrs. Cook's Corner

Identifying the Right Tool for the Job

This week’s blog post will center on ISTE Standards for Educators #2 Leader: Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning. More Specifically indicator 2c: Educators will be able to model for colleagues new digital resources and tools for learning through:

  • Identification
  • Exploration
  • Evaluation
  • Curation
  • Adoption


This year, my grade level has noticed a significant deficit in the vocabulary skills of our students compared in district testing. Our curriculum (in my opinion), doesn’t plan for our students to have intentional vocabulary practice built into our learning block. This brought on a search for a tool that would be able to strengthen our students vocabulary while being synced with our classroom reading.

Academic Vocabulary is located in the second tier. These words are most often found in texts. This type of vocabulary is critical to college and career readiness. (Developed by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan in Bringing Words to Life)


At the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) that took place in Seattle, I attended a workshop by It was here that I was introduced to a tool that I thought could help my students out. One of the features that sold me on was the fact that I could upload the text or words from the text that my students were reading in order to create a set of words that my students could study “in context.” offers a free option for teachers and students to utilize the cite. The free option allows you to create a class, assign words for practice and students can participate in a interactive vocabulary jam, where students participate in timed activities. offers educators a 30-day free trial of the full cite. With this access to the whole cite, teachers are able to access all of the free options mentioned above. In addition, teachers can track their student’s growth and progress in what they are learning. Teachers are able to assign quizzes and students can practice their spelling with the spelling bee. After the free trial, if you would like to have full access, charges will apply.

Students playing Vocabulary Jam (Photo used with permission of parents.)

What my students think:

We have been using for 3 weeks now. The majority of my students enjoy using the cite to learn new words. The program motivates students because they earn points and can compete against their classmates. I load about 15 words a week for students to practice. First thing in the morning, students come in to class and spend 20 minutes on practicing the vocabulary. They will write the words in a journal to help them with the different meanings. As we are reading, my students will point out vocabulary words that they found in the text. Students are using the vocabulary in their daily speech. (A parent reported that a student called her older brother insolent for talking back to his mother.) All of my students love playing the Vocabulary Jam. The class is split into 2, 3, or 4 random teams where they compete individually as well as a group to answer the vocabulary questions correctly the fastest. This is a fast-paced, high excitement activity that gets them ready for the quiz.

Here is a parent’s response to the program:

“My daughter has always struggled with vocabulary so the program has been great. I’ve noticed her getting excited to learn new words.  She is using them at home and even quizzes her brother to see if he knows what they mean. It’s a fun way for her to learn new things and I appreciate it.” -a sixth grade parent

Two of my students talking about (Used with permission from the parents.)


For teachers, curation can be a powerful tool to organize and share resources with students and colleagues, or to fuel a professional learning practice (2019, Common Sense Media). When curating new tools, it is best practice to analyze the digital tool to see how it benefits the learning in your class room. Two tools that are especially helpful for teachers to find the value in new tools are Common Sense Media and the Triple E Framework.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is a great website that helps parents and educators evaluate ed-tech and helps teach digital citizenship. Common Sense Media is a non-profit company that uses a 15 point rubric to determine the learning potential of the tool.

Here is how checks out according to Common Sense Media

Triple E Framework

The Triple E framework was developed by Liz Kolb, professor at the University of Michigan, to measure how the technology of the lesson is aiding the students grasp of the learning goals. The framework is based on three components (image above), How does the tool engage the learning targets, Enhance the learning targets, and extend the learning targets. Educators use fill out the measuring tool (scoring rubric) to find out if it is meeting all of the components on the rubric. Here is how I scored scored using the Triple E measuring tool. (Kolb, 2011)

I scored 16/18 which means it has exceptional potential to connect the learning through the technology tool. In two categories, I had to give only 1 point out of two. For time on task, students can get distracted especially because their is a competitive aspect to the program. Sometimes, students are more interested in earning the most points, rather than realizing they are learning words that they can make connections with and use in their daily speech and writing. Another area that scored 1/2 is that students could use traditional tools to help with vocabulary acquisition, however, I think that this format is engaging especially the competitive nature. The competitive part can be both a plus and a minus, however the rest of the program definitely has potential to help my students increase their tier 2 vocabulary.

Here is a link to the Triple E Measuring Tool PDF that you can use when evaluating a tool to use in your classroom.


As I mentioned above, my free trial is nearly coming to an end. I would like to continue using until the end of the year. To continue, it would cost me $36.00 to use the full version of this website for the next two months. I would like to use this time to see if the vocabulary is transferring in my students writing and daily speech. At the end of the year, I would like to check-in with my students to see if they found value in the program before I present it to my principal as an option to enhance our ELA curriculum.


  • Thinkmap, Inc. (n.d.). Find out how strong your vocabulary is and learn new words at Retrieved April 21, 2019, from
  • Triple E Framework. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2019, from
  • ISTE Standards for Educators. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2019, from
  • Common Sense. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2019, from
  • Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Kucan, L. (2013). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Dean, C. B., & Marzano, R. J. (2013). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

4 thoughts on “Identifying the Right Tool for the Job

  1. Melissa,
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful resource! I have never heard of before but am persuaded by your research and your students testimonies to give it a try. I liked that you included a variety of feedback from yourself, your students, and even the parents on how this resource is impacting your students learning. Vocabulary Jam sounds upbeat and engaging and I cannot wait to explore more about how to use with my students!

  2. Melissa,

    Awesome post! I appreciate your thoughts around this program. I heard about this too at NCEE last year. I haven’t tried it, but could definitely see myself integrating it into our day. I’m curious to see if you notice your students using this new vocabulary!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Melissa,
    After reading your paper, I learn more about which has many great features I want to introduce to my school’s teachers. I can see how your students like it and get motivated by it. Thank you for sharing this good resource.

  4. Melissa, sounds like an excellent tool – thank you sharing your research with us. I really liked how you evaluated it using the Triple E framework. Sometimes I find frameworks like this vague or too theoretical, so it was good to see one applied in a concrete way. The fact that you received positive feedback from parents is impressive, and given the normal drudgery of learning new vocabulary, the student testimonial (and smiling faces) are also pretty amazing. My daughter’s school uses Membene and I don’t see the same level of student engagement as your students seem to have with

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