Once again, I've had the chance to review a product that would appeal to both homeschool parents and to parents who send their children to either a public or private school.
There's a part of me that thinks about studying vocabulary for the SATs and thinks that it's still so far away. There's another part of me that thinks more logically and realizes that it really isn't too early for my seventh grader to be studying vocabulary words, including ones that are likely to be on the SATs (or other standardized tests).
For the past month, Addison has been using VocabAhead SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos & MP3s. This paperback book ($12.95, available through Amazon.com) covers 300 words that are commonly found on standardized tests. Each entry includes the word, part of speech, definition, a black and white cartoon drawing, a few sentences to illustrate the definition, and a list of synonyms and antonyms. The 300 words are divided into 30 lessons. Each lesson concludes with a matching exercise and ten fill-in-the-blank sentences.
The book is far more, however, than just the words and the review exercises. The real value comes in the downloadable files that can be accessed online after purchasing the book. The MP3 files contain the spoken information: word, definition, and then a few sentences. The video downloads include the spoken information and the corresponding cartoon drawing (in color). The MP3 files and videos can be loaded on a portable device so that you can study anywhere. It appears as if the complete set of videos would take up 500MB of space on your iPod (or other video-capable devise).
Perhaps a sample of a few videos would be appropriate to share:
I really like the audio components because Addison often learns new vocabulary words when she is reading independently. Unfortunately, she doesn't always learn how they are pronounced. I guess this wouldn't be an issue for standardized testing purposes, but it does make for comical conversations at our house sometimes. It also wouldn't be quite as impressive in an interview if she used complex words that were mispronounced. When Brennan begins to study vocabulary at this level, I suspect that he will benefit from both hearing the words and seeing the cartoon picture. He's more of a visual and auditory learner; he doesn't learn as effectively if he is just reading things on his own.
In addition to the printed book, parents may find the VocabAhead website to be quite helpful, especially the Study Room. You can find over 1000 difficult vocabulary words explained using videos. You can also take quizzes or create lists of words to study. I even used the website to choose the videos and create the widget I posted above.
Addison has primarily been working through the word lists in the book so far. I'm interested in VocabAhead's iPod app. This option includes the videos, the cartoons made into flash cards, and quizzes. It will even keep track of which words you've already learned so that you only study the ones you need to practice. I'm seriously considering purchasing the app ($4.99 for 1000 words or only $1.99 for 300) so that she can more easily access the audio and video portions of the program. All too often she'll complete the written exercises without stopping to look up the MP3s on the computer or an iPod.
If you'd like to see what other homeschool families thought about their products from VocabAhead, be sure to check out The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. Some of us received the paperback book, and other families have been using their DVD product. I know that the DVD has MP3s and videos for at least 1000 words, all of which can be easily loaded onto a portable device.