I’ve always loved the use of mnemonics to help me remember things I needed to know in school. I still recite many of the phrases and memory aids I learned when needing to remember the order of things, the colors of the rainbow, the cranial nerves when doing a neuro exam on a patient.
You can quite often catch me singing many old familiar songs I learned when I was a kid from Saturday morning cartoons when trying to remember the preamble to the constitution, how a bill becomes a law, teach multiplication facts, parts of speech, and so many other things.
My kids have certainly caught on to the use of mnemonics as well when learning and remembering.
I was, therefore, very excited to receive a copy of Vocabulary Cartoons for review.
We received 3rd to 6th grade level which retails for $12.95.
This book contains 210 vocabulary words along with 21 review quizzes that have fill in the blank and matching questions.
As I flipped through the book I saw a vocabulary word listed at the top of the page, pronunciation, definition, and then a word to be used as a mnemonic. The words are listed as “sounding like” as many don’t actually rhyme with the word, and sometimes the exact same word is used (homophones).
In the middle of the page is a cartoon picture representing the word association. In the description it is mentioned that the cartoons are often very bizarre, as the more outlandish, the better one seems to remember something.
After the cartoon is a group of sentences in which the word is used and printed in bold type.
So what did we think?
*After reading the introduction, I began to read through the pages. I found that many of the mnemonic aids seemed harder to remember than the word itself, and/or just didn’t really make sense.
Anguish sounds like sandwich – huh? and the picture goes on to show “Robert was starving and in such anguish he ate a rat sandwich.
Culprit sounds like paw prints ? Verticle sounds like icicle? Compatible sounds like pat and bull? Occupant sounds like octopus pants?
*I was a bit annoyed by the “tone” of many of the sentences such as for the word shun:
~Ralph was shunned by everyone in his class because he rarely took a bath.
~She thought she was a princess and shunned all her friends.
~Having eight children has been a burden for her.
*There were some word pictures that raised my hackles a bit. One example was the word belittle sounds like little.
The picture shows a school teacher with an angry look on her face shaking a ruler at a child who has shrunken to the floor- body is so small that his clothes have fallen to the floor around him- his eyes wide- two children standing beside laughing and pointing at the poor shrunken child and the caption says “Johnny felt little when Miss Tronkin scolded and belittled him.” Just another reason why we homeschool, but left a bad taste in my mouth none-the-less and made me feel angry. To top it all off, one of the example sentences was : “‘The students worked hard to collect rocks but the field trip leader belittled their efforts.”
*There were some words I feel could have just been left out altogether like sleazy and smitten. Do our children really need to know what sleazy means at this age?
*My biggest beef with the book came when I came to a whole section of horror characters:
Frankenstein and the vampires didn’t seem too bad, but then the next pages show someone dressed up like a ghost being knocked out by someone with a baseball bat, with the next page showing a big ugly creature with a scowl on his face under water about to devour two fishermen. (“Even though the lake was calm, the fishermen had qualms about their safety.”)
Moving on, we have a family of skeletons sitting at a dinner table suffering a famine, and next the character “Jason” from a horror flick sitting at a table in a school cafeteria with children running all over screaming and trays of food flying around. (“No one liked sitting adjacent to Jason.”) I’m wondering at this point how many 3rd to 6th graders even know who Jason is?
Moving on to the next page, we have a huge hairy hand reaching into a bed grabbing a person who is peeking out from under his covers (“Always be wary when you wake up and feel something hairy.“) Because we certainly need more “visuals” for those who are scared of the dark.
Turn the page and you have the best visual of all to convince your children they really need to sleep with mom and dad for the rest of their lives so the boogie man doesn’t devour them in their sleep.
Here on page 54 we have the word dread which means to be in terror of; to anticipate with distaste or reluctance. Sounds like: (are you ready for this?) bed.
Here in this picture we have a terrified child in his bed peeking from under the covers with a big horrible tree scowling in the window with his branches out, the window is half open, so I guess that’s how the skeleton reaching over the headboard to grab the child got in. There is also an octopus tentacle reaching out from the footboard, and a monster that looks like a demon with claws coming up from the side of the bed. To top it off there is a book labeled “ghost stories” on the side table!
The memory sentence? “Billy sometimes dreaded going to bed.”
The facing page shows a ghost looking in the mirror at itself , and the memory sentence: “The ghost was aghast.“
While most of these visuals and ideas might not really be a problem for older elementary, I certainly wouldn’t leave this book around for your younger nightmare-prone children to get ahold of. For me, though, I think I’d rather choose different topics for the use of these words all together.
While there were many distasteful sentences, pictures and ideas in this book, I chose to let my 13 year old (who is no longer afraid of the boogie man 🙂 flip through it and tell me what she thought without giving her my opinion first. She had pretty much the same opinion of the distasteful and scary parts. (She commented, “Why would anyone let their little kids see this stuff?”) She thought many of the actual vocabulary words seemed “weird” or way too easy, many already be understood by older elementary children. She also said that she felt many of the words used would confuse spelling of the word.She showed me many examples, like mettle and medal, erode and road, ductile and duck pull.
She also wondered about a few that used a mnemonic the child might not know or understand like:
Crevice sounds like crevasse. I think most children would know what a crevice is before they would understand what the word crevasse is- maybe they should switch the words?
I then chose to go ahead and let my 5th grader look through it, and she just commented that it was “weird” and there weren’t many words there that she didn’t already know.
This book was not a good fit for our family. I have described some of my dislikes in detail because I realize these things might not bother other families, but for those who prefer to avoid scary visuals or using disrespectful situations as examples, this might not be for them either. I would definitely recommend looking through the book yourself before handing it off to your child.
Please visit the Crew blog to read what my crew mates thought!
**I received this book as a part of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.