The latest addition to our grammar/composition arsenal is "Vocabulary Cartoons - Word Power Made Easy".
This 252-page book packs a punch in the vocabulary department! It uses rhyming and visual mnemonics to help kids learn 210 new vocabulary words. Don't remember what a mnemonic is? According to www.dictionary.com, in its noun form mnemonic means "something intended to assist the memory...".
Still confused? An example of a rhyming mnemonic is "Columbus sailed the ocean BLUE in fourteen hundred and ninety-TWO". We've all heard that, right? Blue and two rhyme, so it's easy to remember the year. It's even easier to remember if you set it to music. Rhyming mnemonics is one of the methods this book uses to help kids remember the new vocabulary words.
Another method used by this book is visual mnemonics. Most of us unconsciously visualize many of the words we use/hear. For example, can you read the word "flower" without actually forming a picture of a flower in your mind? I can't. If you associate a new vocabulary word with a picture, preferably a silly picture (which will make it easier to remember), you are "assisting your memory." For words for which a picture can't easily be formed, a similar word is used and combined with the vocabulary word to make a silly picture.
While I am not convinced that mnemonics should be used for all memory work, I do believe they serve a purpose - my belief is the more available methods for recalling information, the better. You can see examples from the book here (note that the image changes every 10 seconds) or you can download a .pdf with examples here. The website also includes some terrific teaching strategies here.
Vocabulary Cartoons is published by New Monic Books (www.vocabularycartoons.com; 800-741-1295; firstname.lastname@example.org) and is rated for grades 3-6. The book retails for $12.95 and can be purchased here.
When this book arrived several weeks ago, its first stop was my husband - and he wouldn't let go! That's evidence that it can appeal to folks older than 6th grade, although my husband's focus was the goofy cartoons. After their dad finally released the book, my 8- and 10-year-old daughters grabbed it. For almost an hour, giggles and laughter came from the sofa where they were sitting sharing the book. After that first session, it was decided that their favorite vocabulary cartoon in the book covers the word "occupant" - the book shows that it sounds like "octopus pants", and the cartoon caption is "An octopus occupying his pants". While occupant was not a new word for them, they sure enjoyed the visual (and I'm wondering if they'll ever be able to say either "occupant" or "octopus" with a straight face). Of course, with each subsequent reading a new favorite cartoon emerges.
For each vocabulary word, there are several pieces of information provided:
I especially liked a couple of things in the book. One, it uses the new vocabulary word in 3-4 sentences, often changing the form of the word which allows the students to become familiar with variations of each vocabulary word (i.e., warble, warbled, warbling, etc.). Two, for every 10 new vocabulary words a quiz is provided which includes matching and fill-in-the-blank sections (answers are included in the back of the book). Note if your child actually fills in the pages of the quiz that will make this book consumable, but it would be very easy to just have the student fill in the answers on a separate piece of paper and preserve the book.
In hindsight, I wish I had reviewed the book first before allowing the girls to read it. There were a couple cartoons included in the book that I feel could be revised to be more suitable, at least for our family. While I know vampires are all the rage these days (what is the big attraction to the Twilight series?), I personally avoid such things in our home. The book uses "vampire" as the sound-alike word for "transpired". Also, the rhyming word for "adjacent" is Jason - as in Jason from the Friday the 13th movies (which I would *never* allow my children to view). Additionally, with a nightmare-prone child, the cartoon caption for "wary" might have caused some issues if I hadn't addressed it before bedtime.
While my girls enjoyed the book, it has by no means received daily (or even weekly) attention. If they happened to see the book, they would sit down with for a while and go through the cartoons, but I did not notice them specifically seeking it out. That's okay with me - I enjoy having reference books that get infrequent attention, as I believe it keeps the information fresh and works as a good review.
One of the reasons I love homeschooling is that homeschooled children still believe that learning is fun. This book is a perfect example of how something that could be considered dry and boring (learning new vocabulary words) can be transformed into something interesting and appealing.
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Disclaimer: As part of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product described in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.