When Baltimore County Secondary Schools ELA Coordinator Gail Green decided to pilot Vocabulary.com last year, she wanted to do something special to ensure a successful implementation of the platform — something that would get teachers and students fired up about word-learning.

The Intramural BCPS Vocabulary Bowl is Born

That's when Becky Fischer and Stephanie Fanshaw from the ELA team came up with the idea of an intramural county-wide Vocabulary Bowl. Using the custom leaderboard feature, they set up a challenge among nine BCPS middle schools to see which one could master the most words from October through January.

The idea was such a success that when the close contest for vocabulary victory concluded, neither the teachers nor the students wanted to see the competition — or the learning — end. So the schools agreed to extend the challenge for a few more months, adding a "Round 2.". This time, there was even more excitement as schools that were bested by "Round 1" champ Northwest Academy of Health Sciences had another chance to overtake their local rivals.

Round 2 Goes to...

This time around, it was Deep Creek Middle School at the top of the BCPS Vocabulary Bowl leaderboard. And while only one school can be on top, it was a win-win situation for everyone who participated because so much vocabulary improvement was accomplished along the way; together the students at the nine schools collectively mastered more than 53,000 words, and they're still going strong.

The Take-away

After the big win, we had a chance to check in with Deep Creek Language Arts Department Chair and 8th Grade Lisa Bell about the importance of vocabulary improvement and how the platform is helping her and her students. Here's what she had to say:

"Limited exposure to language puts many low-income children at a terrible disadvantage. Children from low socio-economic homes know about 6,000 fewer words than their middle class peers at the start of schooling. Therefore, vocabulary acquisition is crucial for our student population."

"The program was used as a warm-up, for research, and independent acquisition with literature circle novels. It was meaningful and saved me a lot of time."

"75% of my students showed growth on their MAP assessment which assesses vocabulary and comprehension."

Top 3 Students at Deep Creek

Deep Creek Middle Science Teacher Kasey Robertson added:

"One of the best things about having competition like this within the county is that it helped our students see themselves in a different light. They were pleasantly surprised to see how well they were doing and their success helped dismantle some of the negative preconceived notions they may have previously harbored about their own academic abilities compared to their peers elsewhere in our district."

Students from second place school Deer Park also weighed in:

'"The class competition was cool because I got to see everyone's score and beat them." Justin T., Top Scorer

"I like Vocabulary.Com because it's a game and I got to do the work at home. The competition and race to the top made me motivated to do more than what was assigned." Tatiana G., 7th Grader

Round 3?

Now that these BCPS schools have piloted Vocabulary.com, what’s the plan for next year? Include more BCPS schools, and see how many more words their students can master now that they’ve gotten a taste of Vocabulary Bowl success. 

Thank you to the following BCPS schools for participating:

Deep Creek Middle School - Baltimore, MD
Deer Park Middle School - Randallstown, MD
Dundalk Middle School - Baltimore, MD
Franklin Middle School - Reisterstown, MD
General John Stricker Middle School - Baltimore, MD
Lansdowne Middle School - Baltimore, MD
Northwest Academy of Health Sciences - Baltimore, MD
Stemmers Run Middle School - Baltimore, MD
Windsor Mill Middle School - Baltimore, MD

Spark Excitement and Learning at Your School
Here at Vocabulary.com, we believe that the more students play and compete, the more they learn. That's why we've created a feature that lets users create their very own leaderboards. Imagine vying for vocabulary supremacy with the other schools in your district, besting the school that snatched the debate club trophy from you last year, or even taking down your rivals on the football field by choosing words as your weapon. Now it's possible when you select them — or any schools out there — as your opponents on a custom Vocabulary Bowl leaderboard. Here's how you can create a custom leaderboard.