In the YouTube age, the idea of creating short, funny videos to illustrate SAT vocabulary words seems like a no-brainer, but until now few companies have actually done it. That’s why vocabvideos.com, produced by A-List Education is such an exciting, ground-breaking SAT test prep site. While the major test prep companies are still creating boring vocabulary guides that read like dictionaries (or in the case of Kaplan, packaging SAT vocabulary in 19th century literature), vocabvideos.com has managed to transform 500 SAT vocabulary words into a format that modern teenagers will actually enjoy.
The theory behind vocabvideos.com is simple, yet brilliant: humans have much better memories for things they can see and hear (as opposed to just read) and for stories. Think about ancient bards who were able to memorize and retell stories like the Iliad and the Odyssey that today take up hundreds of written pages. Think about how you can recall with great accuracy the scenes from beloved movies or TV shows down to the character dialogue, but probably recall very little of the history you studied in school. Visual stories are simply easier to remember.
The highlight of vocabvideos.com is 25 video episodes, each consisting of 20 SAT vocabulary words. The episodes are further divided into four chapters, each featuring 5 words. The chapters are short video vignettes in which the story illustrates the vocabulary word. For example, in an office scene one of the workers comments on the others loud, tasteless tie, which illustrates the word garish. In another scene, a character secretly leaves a love note for another character after carefully checking to make sure nobody was watching, which illustrates the word surreptitious. The words are chosen according to their frequency of appearance on the SAT, which is always something you should look for in vocabulary test prep.
The videos themselves are light-hearted and silly. The obviously amateur quality of the production and the cheesy acting actually serve to make the scenes more humorous and memorable. The videos have a feel similar to the Standard Deviation language DVDs. The one missed opportunity for me is that the characters act out the words, but don’t actually use the words. Hearing the words actually spoken in context, in a scene illustrating the definition of the words, would have helped students build deeper connections to the words.
The rest of vocabvideos.com- the quizzes, worksheets, and other materials, are not very well done. However, this site is all about videos, and those are well worth the $25 for a 6-month subscription. I would absolutely recommend this site to my students.