I’ve been homeschooling for 17 years now and have seen (and probably used, lol) just about everything you can think of for vocabulary studies. One of our favorites over the years is the book Vocabulary Cartoons for the way it connects pictures to a word’s meaning. The negative about Vocabulary Cartoons is that it’s in a book format. It’s kind of hard to practice definitions when you can see everything (like the definition/answers) all together on the page.
Marie’s Words Vocabulary Flash Cards solves this! Fun illustrations are on the front of each card (about the size of an index card). Flip it over and you get the definition(s), pronunciation help, synonyms and antonyms. There is a total of 550 cards with words targeted for the SAT.
The front of each card features the word you are learning along with an illustration to help you remember the meaning of the word. For example: the word viscous is drawn with a jar of honey being poured over the top of the letters V I S C O U S. You can see that the honey is clinging to the top of the letters and dripping down. It’s an immediate visual cue that really helps you remember that a viscous substance (like honey) has a thick, sticky consistency between a solid and liquid.
On the “hamper” card below you can see both meanings for hamper: something to hold dirty laundry and also the fact that the vehicle is being hampered from driving any further.
The back of each card has several helps beyond just a definition (or several definitions if a word has more than one meaning).
First, there is a number on the upper left corner. This is helpful if you want to alphabetize your cards. Ours are hopelessly out of order from using them so much, but if we ever wanted to put them back in order, these numbers would help tremendously.
Next, there is the word you are defining featured prominently at the top (which is nice if you are helping a child practice – you don’t have to look at the front of the card to see what you are doing) as well as a pronunciation help underneath. The pronunciation help is a great feature, especially for some of the harder and more unfamiliar words. For example: On the card for the word putrid the pronunciation help shows: pyoo-trid with the pyoo part in bold so you know to emphasize that syllable.
Underneath the word and it’s pronunciation help is the definition itself. Sometimes there is more than one definition if a word has more than one meaning. There is also a sentence for each definition so you can see the word in context. I find this really helps my son better retain the meaning. The sentence for the first definition (and most commonly used meaning) is related to the drawing on the front of the card to make it stick even more.
The last thing on each card are two boxes at the bottom. One contains synonyms and the other antonyms. These boxes do double duty. Not only do they expose you to even more vocabulary, they also help clarify the meaning of the word. Let’s say my son is learning the 2nd definition for the word “hamper” and he doesn’t know what impede or restrict means. He can look at the antonym box and see that the opposite meaning is to allow or permit. This not only helps make the definition more clear, it also connects it to other words and meanings. When he looks at the synonym box he can see the synonyms block and stymie. These words will either help him better define the word or will introduce him to additional vocabulary words he may not be totally familiar with. I find the synonym box to also be a huge plus in that it can allow a student to define the word using just one other word instead of a longer definition. Sometimes that just works better (and is quicker)!
I know these cards are being marketed for SAT study, but I think they are just as useful as a vocabulary program for almost any age (though some words and their definitions might be too difficult for some early elementary students). I’ve found that they are a fun break from using a workbook or something similar. They are easy to use, quick and memorable (and portable!).
Another thing I want to comment on is that I work with a child who has (high functioning) autism (Aspergers). This child sometimes has difficulty learning things out of context. Having Marie’s Words on hand instantly ties each word to something visual and more easy to connect to than just a word itself.
A student can easily use the cards on his own, but I find it’s more fun to use them together. We like to flip through them and quiz each other. Even I learned some words *blush*…
The only negative thought I have about Marie’s Words is the name. It’s not sticky. I think the cards should be called something like Visual Vocabulary or something similar. Ah well. That’s a very minor complaint and has nothing to do with the actual use of the cards themselves. Also, sometimes the definition is kind of difficult, but all you have to do is look at the synonyms to “dumb it down”.
I’ve had great success using Marie’s Words in my homeschool and highly recommend them if you are looking for something different to help you teach vocabulary. The illustrations really help the word meanings stick and turn learning vocabulary into something visual, quick, easy and even fun!
Click here to visit the official Marie’s Words website. You can also purchase them from Amazon and Timberdoodle. If you visit the official site, there is also an app available for the iPhone, iPad and Android!