Research Basis

Research Basis for Splat-O-Nym

Students learn vocabulary gradually, after exposure to each word multiple times used in various ways. Splat-O-Nym is an easy-to-use, fun app that offers students exposure to thousands of words, organized into 24 levels of increasing difficulty. Audio support and immediate feedback are among the Splat-O-Nym features that help students learn the pronunciation of unfamiliar words and enhance their acquisition of vocabulary. Splat-O-Nym turns the tasks of examining the relationship between words and deducing their meaning from context into a fun, engaging activity.

What the Research Indicates How Splat-O-Nym Applies This Research
Exposure to Words Is Critical
Students who are exposed to varied language and vocabulary experiences transform those experiences into knowledge and skills. Since vocabulary development is shaped by the exposure to language, vocabulary intervention becomes essential if early language experiences for a student are not enriching (Hart & Risley, 2003).
Splat-O-Nym includes thousands of target words divided into 24 levels, including:
  • Over 7,000 synonym questions
  • Over 1,000 antonym questions
  • Over 600 context questions
Multiple Exposures to Target Words
A student's likelihood of learning a word increases each time he or she encounters and experiences the word. Word meanings are acquired incrementally over time, and children require multiple exposures to learn a word's meaning (Fukkink & de Glopper, 1999; Stahl, 2003).
  • Many target words show up in multiple levels with different correct answers depending on the difficulty of the level.
  • Many correct answers and distractors are themselves target words in other levels and questions.
  • Target words in Context Contest questions are all also target words in at least one synonym or antonym question.
  • The Lightning Round is made up of the 20 target words the student has most recently answered correctly, providing a review or chance to master a recently acquired word.
  • When a student makes an incorrect response, Splat-O-Nym presents that target word again after presenting a few other target words. This feature provides the student with another opportunity to respond correctly and learn the target word.
Instructional Techniques
Vocabulary instruction should allow students to have multiple opportunities to learn words, such as identifying synonyms and antonyms, connecting known words to new words, and deriving meaning from context (Sweeney & Mason, 2011).
  • Extended play in Splat-O-Nym provides practice in quickly aligning synonyms and antonyms to target words.
  • Each correct response remains on the screen with the target word for a moment to reinforce the connection between the words.
  • Many target words appear in multiple levels with answers and distractors appropriate for the different levels.
  • Splat-O-Nym also includes an activity where the target word is presented in context (a sentence that helps explain the target word's meaning) whenever a student moves down a level due to incorrect responses.
Active Engagement
For maximum results, a vocabulary program should utilize a variety of methods that incorporate active engagement with the material (NRP 2000, p. 427).
Splat-O-Nym is an engaging, independent vocabulary game that helps students learn synonyms and antonyms through four fun activities: Synonym Splat, Antonym Attack, Context Contest, and Lightning Round.

Instruction of Target Words in Context
Research identifies that, when words and easy-to-understand explanations are introduced in context, knowledge of those words increases (Biemiller & Boote, 2006), and word meanings are better learned (Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986).

Context clues can help students deduce the meanings of unknown words. According to researchers, the ability to use contextual information can produce substantial, long-term growth in vocabulary (Nagy & Anderson, 1985) and even a small improvement in the ability to use context has the potential to produce this growth (Baumann, Edwards, Boland, Olejnik, & Kame'enui, 2003).

Splat-O-Nym presents the Context Contest if the student goes down a level based on performance. This activity gives the student a chance to earn back the points lost on the most recent incorrect responses. Students pop the bubble of the synonym of a target word as it is used in a sentence.

Because context plays such a crucial role in word learning, the carefully written Context Contest sentences go beyond simply using the target word and provide clues and sometimes explanations of the target word. Many of the target words in the Context Contest were chosen for this activity because students frequently responded incorrectly when presented with these words while using the Read Naturally Live Wordtastic program.

Choosing Words
Vocabulary instruction should focus on words that are "likely to appear in a wide variety of texts and in the written and oral language of mature language users" (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002, p. 16). According to research, words should have these characteristics:

Importance and utility: Words that are characteristic of mature language users and appear frequently across a variety of domains.
Instructional potential: Words that can be worked with in a variety of ways so that students can build rich representations of them and of their connections to other words and concepts.
Conceptual understanding: Words for which students understand the general concept but provide precision and specificity in describing the concept."
(Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002, p. 19).

The words in Splat-O-Nym were selected from multiple children's thesauruses. The Educator's Word Frequency Guide by Susan Zeno was helpful in the original leveling of the words.

The teachers employed by Read Naturally evaluated selected words for their usefulness in expanding the precision of a student's vocabulary. The resulting databank of words used in Spat-O-Nym is rich and deep.

Word Consciousness
When students have an interest in and awareness of words, they have developed word consciousness. Such students enjoy engaging in word work and like to learn new words (Sedita, 2005).
As an engaging vocabulary game, Splat-O-Nym has the potential to increase students' interest in and awareness of new words and their meanings.
Game-Based Learning
Benefits of presenting content in a game-based model are wide ranging; gameplay has been shown to improve attention, focus, and mood states (Granic, Lobel, & Engels, 2014).

Motivating sounds, graphics, and animations engage users in the four Splat-O-Nym activities. The use of game-based technology provides students with feedback on their performance and an engaging experience, which leads to extended involvement with the vocabulary app in order to become more proficient.

Students enter the game in level one of the Synonym Splat activity and move up and down through the 24 levels and between the four game activities based on their performance. The game keeps track of total points, saves the level and points for up to six students between sessions, and generates a Results report that provides a snapshot of a student's performance in the game after each Lightning Round. (For more information, see How It Works on the Splat-O-Nym product page.)

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