TOS Crew Review: Vocab Videos

So far, the bulk of my reviews were for the boys, so I was particularly excited to find a review for my high schooler. This year, Janna will be taking her SAT, so when the opportunity came to review Vocab Videos came up, I jumped at the chance. Last school year, we had started to work through the daunting SAT vocabulary list, only to stop when we got to the "D" section. So much for that idea. My hope was that this would be a different method of learning that will help her to improve her vocabulary in preparation for the test.

Company Information: Vocab Videos is a site that is designed to help prepare students for the SAT by increasing their vocabulary. According to the site, vocabulary is worth up to 150 points on the test. But instead of just using rote memory (like we tried to do) to learn new words, Vocab Videos combines both visual and auditory methods to increase engagement and retention.

Through a series of video stories, 500 of the most common words found on the SAT are covered. (If you are looking for a list of words for your high schooler to study, the site offers a PDF of these words. In fact, it may just be a good list to have around even if you have middle schoolers. See if your kids can find and group synonyms together!)

Anyways back to the videos. Each word is defined, illustrated with a short 30-60 second video, and then used in a sentence. Along with the videos are companion quizzes, worksheets and study helps. With the subscription is also included a digital flashcard maker that allows students to make their own flashcards for vocabulary lists of their own.

The educator program allows teachers to track the progress of their students and the results of their quizzes. There is also a student-only option that includes everything except the classroom management tools.

Product Reviewed: I was given a one-year small educator (good for 20 students) subscription for this review.

Price: $74.99 for the subscription I received. However, if you do not need the management tools, you can purchase a 6-month student-only subscription for $24.99 or a 12-month student-only subscription for $39.99.

Age Range: High school

Parental Preparation: It depends. Technically speaking, you can simply sign up and log in. A PDF on how to utilize the program can be found in the Study Resources section of the user site. It is a few pages long and takes a few minutes to read.

However, for us, we had been forewarned of the secular nature of the site, which was not a problem for me in and of itself. But this did require that I spend some extra time previewing the videos for suitability for my own family first. Each of the 25 video story "sets" contains 20-30 word videos. Each video is about half a minute to one minute long. To watch one set took me less than 15 minutes, but it did require a little time.

How We Used It: As I mentioned, I first previewed some of the videos. To be up front about it, if you are not wanting your children exposed to the dating culture or hearing God's name in vain, you will probably just avoid this series altogether. But as I was committed to focusing on the vocabulary building aspect of these videos, I was willing to overlook these things.

The first video I watched, for example, was entitled "Two's Company, Part One" which was a story about two guys in an office who were interested in the same girl. One was the aggressive, ambitious type; the other was the nerdy yet lovable guy. Using words like "urbane," "surreptitious," "meticulous," and "garish" a story is woven. In one of the videos, one of the guys was literally caught "with his pants down" (in his boxers) to the amusement of the rest of the office.

Now in our family, we do not watch any TV programs, so this kind of slapstick humor is not something our kids normally see. Some of them are admittedly parodies of programs such as Gossip Girl, Lost, and The Office, which we have not seen, so the humor may be lost on us.  The scenarios are more of the adult world, where characters drink wine, undergo hypnosis, and practice meditation while on a stranded island. I don't think they are as bad as the television programs out there, but do know that there are things in the videos that can be objectionable.

Anyways, before watching "Two's Company," I did preface the viewing with a caution, so that she would not be taken by surprise. I also asked her to focus on not just the story but the words. After we watched the videos, I had her take the quiz, which she was able to score 100% on. (The real test probably will be how she does in a few months!) Though it said it was SAT-style questions, I didn't think they were that difficult.

We also found in the Study Resources section a vocabulary list divided into categories of words with similar meanings. We printed it out for her to work on. This was very helpful, as we had noted in our first attempt at studying vocabulary, many words were very similar. This chart grouped them for us and her goal is to learn these groups of words instead of treating each one individually.

Obviously, for our school, I only have one student, and as this was a supplement for us, I did not find it necessary to use the teacher's management tools. However, if you are a high school English teacher, this may come in handy.

What We Liked:

  • Humor aside, we did find the videos to illustrate the words in a memorable way.
  • The vocabulary list mentioned above is great.
  • There is a glossary that is linked to the specific video in which the word is used.
  • The quizzes and crossword puzzles allowed us to interact with the words even more.
  • The digital flashcard maker allows us to make flashcards that focus on the words we need the most study. The cards can be personalized with our own photos or linked to websites that can help us to remember. Flashcard sets can be made for any subject, not just SAT words.

What We Didn't Like:

It did grate on me each time God's name was used in vain or in (at least) one video when He was a joke. I really tried hard to ignore it, but as it was so commonly used, it did bother me. This is not uncommon in our society today, but I wanted to make sure that my children understood that we did not condone or consider it acceptable behavior. The upside was that this gave us an opening into talking about this issue which I hope will benefit my children as they grow up in this world. Even though we homeschool, it is hard to completely avoid pop culture, especially as we are living in southern California. Rather, we are looking at this as an opportunity to train our children otherwise. However, with that said, as a parent, you will need to evaluate whether that is a price you want to pay.

Overall Summary:

I do enjoy finding new ways to make learning memorable and helpful for my children, and as this was given to me for this review, I think I will continue to use it for my daughter as she prepares for the exam. I do plan on previewing all of the videos before letting her watch them. I do not want my younger boys to watch them though. However, if you do not think it is suitable or desirable to have your children exposed to anything as I have mentioned in this review, you should probably opt to find another way to study SAT vocabulary.

Disclaimer: I received a one-year small educator's subscription to Vocab Videos in exchange for my honest thoughts. All opinions are my own. If you'd like to read other reviews on this product, click the banner below!