Review: Vocabulary Spelling City

Raine and I are happy with the Funnix reading program we currently use, so while we use Sonlight as our main curriculum, I don’t use their Language Arts and Reading materials much. Lately though, Raine’s reading skills have improved phenomenally. She can read and comprehend chapter books by herself (she loves Boxcar Children and is now reading Wizard of Oz)! But I notice she reads sight words, and by context, so we still push on with Funnix just to make sure she has a solid phonics foundation.   

Aside from phonics, I also want to make sure that Raine can spell well. “Good spellers are almost always good readers...Spelling also has a strong relationship with reading comprehension. The correlation between spelling and reading comprehension is high because both depend on a common denominator: proficiency with language,” say Joshi, Treiman, Carreker and Moats in their article in the American Educator.  Sonlight has spelling component to their Language Arts, but it’s tied in with their materials. I suppose I could tweak it to suit our needs, but—confession time—I’m lazy (I know it’s a good program and I really should try to incorporate it into our lessons, but inertia is a dangerous thing). So when I was offered a Premium account for Vocabulary Spelling City in exchange for a fair review, I, freebie fool that I am, jumped at the chance.

In their own words, “ is a site where students of all ages can improve their spelling skills and expand their vocabulary. The website's approach is to enforce the elements through a combination of interactive learning.” A quick peek at their website shows a wide array of games, teacher’s resources and printable worksheets.

As soon as you get on the site, you can start using the features. You can make your own word list, or tap into Spelling City’s own lists—they have over 42,000 spelling words that are grouped into categories (e.g. Science words, Math words, compound words, contractions, food, sports, etc.) and grade level. If you want to save your lists, you will have to create an account and login.

 One great thing about Vocabulary Spelling City is that you can use it for free. They do have a paid premium membership, which allows you to access certain features (like making your own definitions for spelling words and tracking your students’ progress and maintaining a record of it), but you can also get so many nifty features with the free version.

Our experience

The initial problem I personally had with Vocabulary Spelling City is that it was a little confusing and a bit overwhelming. Now that I’m familiar with the site and features, I’m fine, but in the beginning I had no idea where to start. Yes, on the home page there’s a big “Start Here” sign, but it still didn’t work for me—I needed a little more hand-holding. I realize now that they do have help guidelines, but I wish they were more obvious.

I finally figured out that I could import a word list into my List Management page and Raine’s activities and games would be based on that list. Oh, and I had to figure out that I had to create a student account for Raine (on my Students & Gradebook page) so she could login separately and do either the activities I assigned to her, or other activities of her choice. Then I could use my lists to make assignments for Raine, so when she logs in, she knows what to do. Of course, it helps that Raine can read already, so I don’t have to hold her hand throughout the entire Spelling City session (which is more than can be said for me).

When I finally was comfortable, I added my own lists—words from our Science and Geography lessons—and added my own definitions and sentences (which I think are features available only to Premium members; otherwise, you’ll have to use the default definitions and sentences). Then I made Raine’s assignments, which had the review of the words, spelling and vocabulary tests, and her favourite games.

Raine had an easier time getting into the groove. I showed her how to work the Assignments and tests, and now she can do everything on her own. Her favourite games are the Word-O-Rama, which is like a game show, complete with cheesy host and flashing lights (Premium game); Word Search; Speedy Speller (another Premium game); Match It Sentences; and Match It Definitions (Premium).

What we like

I’m gradually discovering all that I can do with Vocabulary Spelling City, and I like it more and more. The Premium membership allows me to track Raine’s performance. I can see what activities she’s done and how she fared on the Spelling and Vocabulary tests (and I also know which words she got wrong). I look forward to using the Writing Practice feature, when Raine starts composing her own sentences and paragraphs. I like the categories of words like homonyms, homophones, capitonyms and Dolch-sight words.

I also like the very rich Teachers Resources. It includes all the different word lists, links to printable worksheets and awards, and even a phonics and sight word spelling curriculum. I also like lessons on syllabication, abbreviations and possessive nouns. There are also informative articles on the need for spelling and tips and prompts for writing. I love the new Analogies feature—you know, like dog is to puppy as cat is to kitten—it can also help develop reasoning and logic, aside from hone vocabulary.

What was so-so

As I mentioned earlier, I would’ve appreciated an Idiot’s Guide to the site. It took me a couple of weeks before I finally poked around the site.

Another thing I wasn’t too hot on was that some of the definitions were a little too complex for the supposed grade level. Take the Pre-K Dolch-sight word ‘play’. The definition was ‘to take part in an activity for amusement’. The definition they gave for ‘one’ is ‘a cardinal number less than two’. I would’ve said play is something you do for fun (I have no idea how I would define ‘one’ though).

The verdict

I would definitely recommend Vocabulary Spelling City. It’s great for homeschoolers, or parents who would like extra practice for their kids. Raine enjoys it—she actually asks to do Spelling City even if it isn’t lesson time. You can do a lot with the free version, but if you have some budget, you could do even more with the Premium account.



  1. Hi, Thanks so much for the review. Some interesting feedback there. Few points.

    Any member, free or paid, can add or edit sentences. For more info on how this works (and to generally help with the site), be sure to glance at the “How-To” videos. There’s one on customizing sentences. I think it runs 30 seconds.

    Thank you in particular for calling out our teacher resources. We’ve worked so hard on them so its nice that noticed. My favorites are analogies and compound words so I was delighted you mentioned the analogies. We just finished up the math vocabulary and science vocabulary teacher resources. I think they can be really useful supplements to most curriculum.

    As to the games, we just put in the new crossword puzzle generator so I’m excited about it.

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