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Wordbar/ Word Bank


A Word Bar, more commonly referred to as a Word Bank, is a floating bar at the bottom of a computer screen that houses frequently used words or pictures with words attached that can be dragged and dropped into a document. They eliminate the need to type, spell, or recall a word. Topic-specific dictionaries and word banks allow individuals to customize their word lists, and thus provide individuals with the vocabulary they need to write about the topic at hand, and may provide clues to some of the details individuals may want to include in their writing (Satterfield, 2013). Many products containing word banks offer customizable options, and are effective at providing a form of scaffolding the writing process for students (Naraian & Surabian, 2014). Specifically, teachers can decrease the complexity of the writing process by providing word banks from which students can make selections to construct written messages (Pennington & Delano, 2014). According to Draffan, Evans, and Blenkhorn (2007), word banks are one of the most commonly used assistive technology tools.


There has been some experimental research examining the performance of students with and without word banks. Glass, Clause, and Kreiner (2007) asked college students to complete a fill-in-the-blank vocabulary test with or without using a word bank and found that the students who used the word bank performed better than the students not using the word bank. It should be noted that the students in this study did not have any disabilities. Thiel, Sage, and Conroy (2017) completed a study examining the performance of adults with acquired dysgraphia on email writing with the option to use or not use word banks. The adults had varied experiences of using the word banks; some found that they were visually distracting, however the spelling of the participants using the word bank showed more improvement than individuals not using the word bank. Additionally, those who used the word bank demonstrated better writing overall (Thiel et al.). MacArthur (1998) stated that there must be a match between the student’s needs and the chosen assistive technology because students often require extensive training and may find the software frustrating. This finding was confirmed by Thiel et al. (2017).

Pennington (2016) also reported student instructional needs must be carefully considered when using word banks. The author suggested beginning or poor readers often make incorrect selections when using word banks, therefore it is important to provide those readers with auditory feedback when selecting a word. Teachers may also consider adjusting font size, background color, touch sensitivity, and scanning options depending on the preferences of individual students (Pennington, 2016).


Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description, this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.


  • Has been shown to decrease spelling errors (Thiel et al., 2017)

  • May improve student test performance (Glass et al., 2007)



  • Requires extensive training to use well (Thiel et al., 2017)

  • Students may find the software frustrating (Thiel et al., 2017)


To Consider

  • Find the right match between the student's needs and the chosen AT

  • Provide auditory feedback for beginner or poor readers (Pennington, 2016)

  • Teachers may also consider adjusting font size, background color, touch sensitivity, and scanning options depending on the preferences of individual students (Pennington, 2016)

Special Consideration: Workflow

OS Compatibility
Internet Reliance
Optimized Use

Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed. 

$ - Under $5

$$ - Between $6 and $50

$$$ - Between $51 and $250

$$$$ - Over $250



Glass, L. A., Clause, C. B., & Kreiner, D. S. (2007). Effect of test-expectancy and word bank availability on test performance. College Student Journal, 41, 342-351.


MacArthur, C. A. (1998). From illegible to understandable: How word recognition and speech synthesis can help. Teaching Exceptional Children, 30, 66-71.


Naraian, S., & Surabian, N. (2014). New literacy studies: An alternative frame for preparing teachers to use assistive technology. Teacher Education and Special Education, 37, 330–346.


Pennington, R. C. (2016). Write on! Using assistive technology and systematic instruction to teach

sentence writing to students with moderate to severe disability. Journal of Special Education Technology, 31, 50-57.


Pennington, R. C., & Delano, M. (2014). Teaching written expression to students

with intellectual disability. In D. M. Browder & F. Spooner (Eds.), More language arts, math, and science for students with severe disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.


Satterfield, P. (2013). What’s your script?: Assistive technology and writing. Retrieved from


Thiel, L., Sage, K., & Conroy, P. (2017). Promoting linguistic complexity, greater message length and ease of engagement in email writing in people with aphasia: initial evidence from a study utilizing assistive writing software. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 52, 106–124.


Written by Bronwyn Lamond, Last Revision May 2018​

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