Feb 7, 2011


I recently received a copy of the book "SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos & MP3S" to review. In general I feel that the best vocabulary builder is to be a voracious reader. That being said, we have used several different vocabulary programs in our eighteen years of homeschooling ranging from mundane to wildly imaginative. What we have never tried is a program that combines several different formats such as that produced by VocabAhead.

VocabAhead states that by using the different
modalities offered in their program you experience a "pull/push" effect, increasing effectiveness. "You will find that each page contains a cartoon illustration and a small text script that provides sample usages for the specific word. The illustration creates a visual connection for your understanding and recall. This is the "pull" model, which means that your brain "pulls" maximum information about the word from the information provided, and then creates a mental picture of it. The use of cartoon illustrations to express feelings and humor makes "pulling" this information an enjoyable process as well. Learning is always less of a chore if you can laugh at the same time!"

The layout of the book is a cartoon per page. Underneath each cartoon is the word definition, synonyms and antonyms. There are ten such vocabulary cartoons per chapter and each chapter ends with a review "quiz".

So far so good. If this was the entirety of the program it would make for an entertaining book to keep on hand in the car to read and quiz each other on during long drives.

The strength of the VocabAhead program, however, is not in the book at all, but in the other media forms utilized by the publisher (and available for download with the purchase of the book), and this is where the "pull" comes into play. "The corresponding audio MP3 files can be downloaded and played on your favorite MP3 player. In the car, on the bus, on the train, even sitting in the park, you can listen to the MP3 audio of the words you viewed earlier." (Or on Swede Farm "feeding your goats, during morning milking, while labeling cheese...") "This is the "push" part of the process. It sends information to your brain through audio channels, allowing you to reinforce your mental picture and connection with the word."

Additionally there are videos of the cartoons with narration. he combination of audio and visual helps reinforce the mental connections with the word. Best of all, these videos can be downloaded to the student's iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad through the iTunes software.

The book with downloadable audio and video is available through Amazon for $12.95. A DVD-Rom (which I did not review) is likewise available through Amazon for $24.99.

Ultimately, the strength of the program is in the website. The website has videos which may be viewed for free (although not as many as provided through the book downloads or the DVD.) The website also, in effect, creates a virtual community by allowing the student to create their own lists of words that they are working on as well as create "shared" lists with other students. Not only can a student view videos online, they can also post videos of their own creation and discuss other such student-posted videos. What a fabulous way to tap into 21st century tools to create a new generation of word nerds!

In the end I have to say...standing alone the book is nothing exceptional. If you are not planning to use the accompanying audio or video downloads then there are plenty of other options available that should accomplish the same goal. Taken as a complete package with the downloads and the website--this is a really fun resource that is more likely to be used than almost anything else I have seen due to how it taps into how students today communicate and interact with the world around them--and around the world via the web.

(Materials reviewed were provided free of charge in exchange for my unbiased review as a part of the This Old Schoolhouse Magazine Review Crew.)

1 comment:

VocabAhead said...

Thanks for posting such a comprehensive review on our Book, LeeAnn. We are happy that you found our website useful as well. :)