Vocabulary FAQs

InferCabulary, a web based, visual vocabulary tool helps to support Tier 2 vocabulary acquisition and critical thinking, using the Semantic Reasoning method.

InferCabulary is more than just a vocabulary app, it’s a great tool that helps students use critical thinking to learn the nuanced meanings of Tier 2 vocabulary broadly and deeply with a growing list of thousands of words.

Teachers, speech language pathologists and tutors can hand-select vocabulary words based on grade level, literature or their own vocabulary lists. Our vocabulary words are cross-referenced with hundreds of popular literature titles. You can see a student’s progress and the vocabulary words they learned, as well as the vocabulary words they struggle with in the program.

InferCabulary is a web-based vocabulary program that can be used on computers, tablets and smartphones that have internet access.

All students grades 1-12 benefit from using InferCabulary to support vocabulary instruction in the classroom. InferCabulary can be used with individual students, small groups and with whole direct vocabulary instruction. Teachers/Specialists can assign InferCabulary as homework, too.

Beth Lawrence and Deena Seifert created the concept of Semantic Reasoning with InferCabulary. Read about it in Michael Milone’s article in Readibility below form the International Literacy Association.

Readability: Semantic Reasoning

InferCabulary teaches students the nuanced meanings of a variety of Tier 2 nouns and adjectives. We have included some Tier 1 vocabulary words for younger students and those learning English, but emphasize Tier 2 vocabulary words, which are tricky to teach and learn due to their nuances.

Tier two words are typically only encountered in reading. Students must already know 98% of the words in a text, otherwise, they will fail to comprehend the text (Hu & Nation, 2000).  Many students struggle to learn words from traditional approaches (e.g., word lists and looking words up in a dictionary). Unless words are encountered in a variety of contexts, students have a shallow understanding of the word–at best (Carey, 2003). This process of “stumbling upon” a word being used in a new context (either in spoken or written language) can take months to years. InferCabulary solves this problem!

Semantic reasoning is the process by which new words are learned and retrieved from one’s lexicon through analysis of multiple images that convey various contexts of the word’s meaning. It’s a higher-level, critical thinking skill that students need to learn words deeply.
Rather than asking students to memorize complex language-definitions that they do not always understand, they use Semantic Reasoning, a cognitive-educational approach we created, whereby students actively infer the meaning of words based on seeing multiple images of the word used in different contexts.

Researchers and learning experts around the country have expressed interest in our unique approach to vocabulary instruction. Two independent studies have been conducted and published in peer-review journals. Take a look at these significant results found by University of Virginia researchers!:

2019 Journal Article:

A study of 75 fifth-grade students showed statistical differences in the significant range (large effect size.) In this study, teachers used InferCabulary as their primary method of direct instruction during vocabulary instruction during weeks 1, 3, and 5. Students were exposed to “business as usual” vocabulary instruction during weeks 2, 4, and 6. Students were assessed at the end of each week, not just on their ability to identify the vocabulary words’ definitions, but to demonstrate flexibility in thinking and applying what they had learned to new contexts. The weeks students received InferCabulary-based instruction, they received far higher scores than their peers who engaged with business as usual vocabulary instruction. “…Use of the app combined with explicit instruction was more effective than BAU in almost all weeks for almost all groups.” This included students in special education, those receiving intervention, and those who do not struggle. Read the full article here. 

2022 Journal Article:

The same UVA researchers conducted an even larger study and looked at the efficacy of students’ independent use of InferCabulary. This research study covered 13 schools within four districts, across three states. There were three cohorts of students: 1) InferCabulary without teacher guidance; 2) business as usual (BAU) instruction; and 3) best practice instruction. Students using InferCabulary performed similarly to students who received best practice, direct instruction from a licensed educator, and both these cohorts significantly outperformed students who had received BAU instruction (large effect size). 

The authors inferred, “the InferCabulary group on average likely encountered each key term more than 10 times during the study, compared to only once in the [best practice] and BAU conditions.” InferCabulary back end data showed that students encountered each word an average of five times, freeing them up to learn an additional 150 words. This meant that students using InferCabulary were able to learn even more words 3-4 times faster than both direct instruction groups. This proved true for students with diagnosed learning disabilities, students in RTI, and those who do not struggle. In fact, the data showed students who used IC independently actually outperformed regular ed students who had received BAU instruction.  Read the full article here.

Because Semantic Reasoning is a new cognitive-educational construct, the co-authors were encouraged to create an assessment tool, The Test of Semantic Reasoning is sold by Academic Therapy Publications and other companies. You can check out the Test of Semantic Reasoning here.

InferCabulary is based on the latest vocabulary research. Below you can view and download a complete list of the vocabulary research we used to support this method.

Research Documentation

The Test of Semantic Reasoning (TOSR) is a new, standardized vocabulary assessment for children and adolescents ages 7 through 17. Semantic reasoning is the process by which new words are learned and retrieved from one’s lexicon through analysis of multiple images that convey various contexts of the word’s meaning.
The TOSR assesses breadth (the number of lexical entries one has) and depth (the extent of semantic representation for each known word) of vocabulary knowledge without taxing expressive language skills, providing an important new resource for individuals assessing children with possible language and literacy deficits. Breadth and depth are both important for literacy. Breadth is related to early decoding, and depth to later comprehension.

We have a digital brochure that you can download as a PDF file. Feel free to email, print or share it!

InferCabulary digital brochure