Thursday, January 5, 2012

InsideStory Flashcards, and Images for Vocabulary Development

InsideStory Flashcards pegs their site as "the world's most interesting way to learn words." It is indeed a nice repository of free printable flash cards with interesting images that illustrate vocabulary words.  About 1000 of these are available to us free through the site, and for a reasonable cost, the site sells boxed sets of vocab flashcards with "Cats & Dogs" and "Animals" themes for human (well, and certainly animal) vocabulary such as malodorous.

In terms of vocabulary, I am actually a big believer in the Isabel Beck school of thought that kids need Tier 2 Vocab (see all the words on the above page as examples) taught in context and repeatedly.  As a result, I think given our service delivery models that it's really tough for vocab to be our sole responsibility, and it is best targeted in consultation with teachers and paraprofessionals.  So really, I think that InsideStory Flashcards is more a great model of what you can do using images on the web than a resource in itself.  For example, look at how the site approaches the creative and contextual selection of an image for the word frolic, above (the rolling-around polar bear).  One could take any vocab word being targeted in the classroom and either pre-select or, even better if you can, have students pick and save images (click here to see how) for their vocabulary words (as this would involve the higher level skill of evaluation).

Think of trying a search like this for a vocab word like gregarious. See that SafeSearch Dropdown up there in the upper right?  Make sure if you are using Google Images with students to set SafeSearch to "Strict" in order to avoid any embarrassing moments.


  1. I came across the InsideStories Flashcards site when I was trying to explain to parents/educators about tier 2 vocab, and I also try to steer them away from flashcards to teach vocab!

  2. The company no longer sells their flashcards.

  3. Really? It let me add them to a cart anyway...didn't want to fully check out.

  4. Same here, Sean. It let me add to cart & go all the way to paying with a credit card.
    I think you did your due diligence with accuracy in this post. Thanks as always for such helpful and enlightening information!

  5. I love the idea of students selecting images for their vocabulary cards. It would definitely make them feel more invested in the activity. Great post!

  6. Thanks for the info, Sean! Always great to have new resources to dig into. Another interesting resource for vocabulary learning is the Visual Thesaurus, which is word based but none the worse for that! What is particularly fascinating is how it lets you play with words and their associations. You can click on a word and it "explodes" into a web of synonyms, superordinates, subordinates, and different parts of speech. If you click on one of these, you get a new "explosion" and can move from word to word to word inside a huge semantic web.

    It's one of those resources you have to see and try out to get a good feel for it. You can try it for free at and if you really like it, it's only $20 per year - 5 cups of Starbucks.

    I'm also going to follow up on this by a blog post, so thanks for the inspiration!