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InferCabulary is a web-based vocabulary tool for 1st – 12th grade students that uses images to help students learn words in a variety of contexts using kid-friendly definitions.

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 words broadly and deeply with over 1800 words (and growing) in our system.

Teachers, speech language pathologists and tutors can hand-select words based on grade level, literature or their own vocabulary lists. Our words are cross-referenced with over 100 popular and classic literature titles.  You can see a student’s progress and the words they learned, as well as the 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 in the classroom. It can be used with individual students, small groups and with the entire class. Teachers/Specialists can assign InferCabulary as homework, too.

InferCabulary teaches students the nuanced meanings of a variety of nouns and adjectives. We have included some tier one words for younger students and those learning English, but emphasize tier two 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.

Our unique method has been of interest to many learning and language researchers around the country. A recent independent study at UVA showed very significant statistical differences on quizzes when 75 fifth-grade students were taught using InferCabulary compared to “business as usual” instruction. Further, the two teachers asked students 60-70 questions when using InferCabulary, compared to 5 or 6 during traditional instruction. Results of this study are in review.

Because Semantic Reasoning is a new cognitive-educational construct, the co-authors were encouraged to create an assessment tool, The Test of Semantic Reasoning, which will be released in November, 2016.

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.