The visual thesaurus was pointed out to me some time ago as a great alternative to the standard online dictionary search, and also as a great way to help learners broaden their vocabulary, particularly with higher level students who have a tendency to rely on a more limited than necessary lexical resource.

But….  I’ve tended not to use it because of their policy of only giving users a limited set of “tries” on the online version before shutting you down.  There is of course a way round that, which involves deleting all the cookies on your computer and clearing down your browser’s history and such like (check out this nifty and free download, if you want to know more about how to do that), but the hassle is a little too much to bother with….

However, the other day I went back and discovered the visual thesaurus has evolved into something more…

There is a growing collection of lesson plans related to use of the visual thesaurus, 53 and counting thus far, and while many seem more intended for native speaker language lessons, there are those that are aimed and EFL / ESL, and those that are adaptable to it (like the one on prefixes – word formation anyone?).

Other things on the site that I think are worth a mention include:

  • Michele Dunaway’s “Teachers at Work” blog, whose most recent post encourages us to think differently about the way we teach creative writing to our students.
  • the “wordshop” collection of vocabulary activities (same caveat about target market applies…)
  • and finally, the vocabgrabber, which you paste text into and which generates word lists of “the most useful vocabulary words” from the text.  I’m not so sure about this one, but it might be useful in deciding which items you want to pre-teach to allow learners to access a text more effectively.  Though that would require you to type the target text into the website….  like I said, not quite sure about how best t0 use this tool.