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Vocabulary Stretch is a program designed to assist middle school and high school students in learning new words, identifying words in a variety of contexts, and developing an understanding of the origins of many English words. The program is divided into three subsections: the Tryout, the Workout and Finals.
The Tryout assesses a user’s prior knowledge by asking a series of multiple-choice questions concerning a particular word list. There are sixteen lists of twelve words each. The Workout provides practice with a given word list. Again, a user progresses through a series of multiple-choice questions. The second part of the Workout, the Wrap-Up, consists of an Antonym Hunt and Beyond Definition (yet another series of multiple choice questions). There are also three Enrichment activities for each word list: Idea Match, matching a vocabulary word from one column with an associated idea from a second column; Words in a Paragraph, in which users determine the meaning of words based on their contexts; and a Crossword Puzzle. Upon completion of these activities, students may progress to the Finals, another series of multiple-choice questions. A summary screen will show the results of the test. A review follows every four word lists.
Although a home version of the program is available, Vocabulary Stretch is certainly designed for use in a school setting and may be purchased for a single station, five stations, ten stations or for an entire site.
Vocabulary Stretch drills definitions of a variety of words, from “neighbor” to “taciturn”. Students have continual access to the glossary, which shows each word with its definition and an example of its use. The format of the program is very similar to that of a test preparation book, one series of multiple-choice questions after another, and it is equally tedious. While the information is accurate and grade appropriate, it seems the only advantage of the program over a test preparation booklet or similar worksheet is that the teacher needn’t spend time grading the work, as it is corrected by the computer.
Vocabulary Stretch lacks any sort of kid appeal at all. An effort has been made to encourage students with a graphic reward after each correct answer during the Workout. However, a 1”x2” banner that reads “Congratulations” may not be terribly motivating to a high school student. Such rewards are not earned during the Tryout or during Finals. In fact, the instructions for the Tryout state: “Here is a diagnostic test. It will help you test your understanding of 12 words. Because the Tryout is a tool that helps assess your skills, you do not get any sounds or graphic rewards until you have completed it”.
For most of the activities, the computer screen is composed of two bars across the top. One contains instructions for the activity; the other displays a sentence employing one of the vocabulary words. Underneath those two bars, on the far left side of the screen, are four small boxes that contain the possible answers and an “OK” button. The remainder of the screen, more than two-thirds, is entirely void of words or images.
Installation of this program was not nearly as simple as installation of most products currently on the market, perhaps because it is primarily designed for school use and not for home use. One must select the appropriate version of the program (home, 1-station, 5-station, 10-station, site) and then enter an 8-digit installation password provided with the software. However, navigation of the program itself is very straightforward.
Vocabulary Stretch is an old-style program that makes little effort to take advantage of the fact that it’s a software program and not a test preparation book. While the information about word origins is interesting and useful, the endless series of multiple-choice questions and lack of appealing graphics makes the program seem very mundane.
PC: Windows 9x/NT/2000, 13 MB hard drive space, 5 MB RAM, minimum 800x600 display .return to top of page
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