Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: VocabAhead

Schnickelfritz and I have been enjoying a DVD-Rom sent to us by VocabAhead.  Why would I be re reviewing a product designed for high-schoolers preparing for the SAT?  Well, first let me tell you about the product and then I 'll tell you how we use it.

Our DVD  contains one thousand words that may appear on the SAT test.  The words are pronounced, defined, and used (usually twice) in a short paragraph.  You may download the word files onto an mp3 player for listening or watch them as videos on your computer,  Ipad, Ipod or Iphone.  The word "video" is misleading--there is only a still picture, not animation,  to accompany the definition.   I found the paragraph much more helpful than just a single sentence using the word.

 The paragraph for "mawkish" is:  Oliver thought the song he wrote for his girlfriend was brilliant, but she actually found it to be mawkish and ridiculous.  Oliver enjoyed writing romantic songs but everybody thought they were too mawkish.  His mawkish displays of affection really grossed his girlfriend out."   The definition is repeated again at the end.  The VocabAhead system certainly offers many options for getting the words to stick in the mind--as a visual person I could recall the pictures and the written definitions.  Others learners may find the auditory definitions and sentence usage more beneficial.

At first I tried using the DVD-rom as a dictionary.  I have been reading The Hidden Hand, written in the 1859, and was frequently coming across unfamiliar words.   Unfortunately, I wasn't very successful at finding the words with VocabAhead.  The disk has only 1000 words and they've been chosen because they are likely to appear on the SAT.  The words in my book were archaic and have fallen out of use. 

I had much more success in using VocabAhead to supplement Fritz's writing curriculum which stresses the importance of a strong vocabulary.  In each paragraph he is instructed to include quality adjectives, strong verbs, and alternatives to overused verbs like "went" and "said."   He must also use an adverb  to "dress up" his sentences.  I used a thesaurus to find alternative words and then checked to see if the alternatives were included on the disk.  Now instead of writing "he said," Fritz can write that the character "blurted" or "slandered."    The file names on the disk include an abbreviation for the type of word--N for noun, V for verb, ADJ for adjective.  There aren't a lot of adverbs, but we've learned from Schoolhouse Rock that it's easy to change an adjective to an adverb by adding "ly" to the end.  I'll grant you that right now these SAT words seem out of place in Fritz's simplistic paragraphs, but better way to learn them and become more comfortable in their use.  

My one frustration is the lack of a way to "interact" with the DVD-ROM.  All I could do is put the disk in the drive and then try and read through the list of 1000 files for a specific word with My Computer.   I couldn't sort the words by type or filter for words starting with a specific letter.   I couldn't assign 5 random words to be learned this week.   Some of these things can be done through the VocabAhead website.   The Word List tab let's you access the words by starting letter.  Registered users can create vocabulary lists to share with others.  There's even information about Iphone apps and adding a "word of the day" widget to your blog. 

The VocabAhead DVD retails for $24.99.  There is also a paperback book of 300 vocabulary words available for $12.95. 

You can read what others on the Homeschool Crew thought about the VocabAhead products by clicking here.
Disclaimer: I received a free Vocabahead DVD-ROM for the purposes of completing this review.  I received no other compensation for my honest opinion.

1 comment:

images of Jesus said...

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