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Visual Vocabulary: how to use it and what did I pay for?


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So, my Visual Vocabulary full set arrived and I have to say I am-- if not disappointed, then-- perplexed.


What I like: I think it is a great and meaningful way to learn some vocabulary words. The cards have high production value and effectively communicate the concept through visual thinking. Promise delivered on.


What's got me stumped: how to use it beyond learning the meaning of 36 words it directly covers, except via means I invent and produce myself.


What is provided for that purpose is confusing at best. As a curriculum junkie, I know what a standard introduction and manual should read like, so don't tell me different. The one-page description of the use of the product with talking points sounds like a quick note written between people who are already using the program or just attended a seminar on the topic. In the intro it mentions 3 year olds learning new fancy words (which I can definitely see is possible) and yet the subsequent "talking points" which occupy the place of a manual in this program is for much, much older kids, and at that age there are far more interesting reads than the contrived short tidbits in the talking points. This may sound like I am asking for a scripted program but that is not what I mean to say. I am a creative teacher and love to be so. It's rather that at this price something quite innovative and creative should be provided for me-- so its really comes down to a critique of the price.


Basically, what is usable are these groups of flashcards of a single word, with different pictures on the back for the same word (total of 36 words with multiple cards for each word). Look at all the pictures, then intuit the meaning of the single word. Still love that part of it. Very effective-- for learning that word.


That is, once you factor out the fact that using pictures with small children will lead them to assume the meaning is a thing (a noun) because everything they see in the pictures are things. I have used the occasion of these cards to reinforce grammar categories, since my children so far make this same mistake every single time. For example, after seeming to grasp quickly the meaning of "luminous" (which is the maker's free sample), my children used it in sentences like, "The luminous over there is very bright," because everything on the cards was giving off light, ergo: luminous means light-source. So, in effect, after "learning" the meaning of the term, my kids then have to unlearn it, and then I teach them to re-learn it in the right way, through examples, acting, whatever… so that I get the weird impression that these cards are just a taskmaster forcing me to teach by my own wits and devices, which is of course great, but… what am I paying for?


There is more to the program though: one of the flashcards in the set of cards on the same word has, in fine print, a bunch of similar, related words printed on it with their definitions, which, I gather, you are supposed to just go off on your own and do stuff with-- maybe discuss, memorize, spell. In any case, you are on your own. I thought there was going to be some sort of visual incorporation and relationship established in the cards themselves between similar and related words, but there is no such thing (which was my imagination and not a false promise from the maker).


The product itself is, quite simply: visual flashcards for 36 words. At $125 it is a steep price for that many words. I don't need to pay for the associated short lists of related words-- I have a dictionary, so there is no added value with a little list on the last card in each set. The makers claim the "program" works with X number of words, but they are including the lists they typed out at the end.


In short, this is a good idea that seems to want to be a "program," but has no idea about how to go about doing that, or if it does, no idea about how to explain it beyond look at this word and go have a conversation on it. If it happens that your child is exactly the right age to appreciate the awkwardly written, vocab-peppered (randomly chosen) blogposts printed out as the talking points-- this might approach "program" status, once you figure your way through the strange way the components are ordered in the talking points handout. I don't have to make that effort myself since my children would never be able to engage the talking points at their age, even if they were interesting texts.



So, I am left in the position of inventing a use for these cards that will be profound enough to justify the $125 I just spent on them (as they are, well worth roughly $25 I would say).


Anyone who can help me imagine how to use them beyond just as memory flashcards… let me know. Any reactions, retorts, commiserations welcome too! Or maybe you or I could invent the product I thought this was going to be.

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I am going to check on that.


I am really good at ordering things and not so good at returning them.


And ugh... I feel bad too about the review because I really support small cottage industries with a great idea-- which visual vocabulary is. I really thought I would be supporting them here and their sales would take off.


I don't want to dissuade anyone actually. Maybe I was expressing myself a little too ardently above?


In any case I really do hope someone can come and straighten me out and point out some things and maybe create some balance, or, best of all, make it so I don't want to return it.

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I really don't like when teaching materials are far reaching with the age levels. The companies set themselves up for disappointed customers.


Yes. The company pitches the program for pre-elementary in the impressions it gives. The anecdotes and examples on the website are the same as in the intro materials you get, and I pasted them in below. They don't mention any kids more than half my children's age, which is 8.


Nor does the website mention any return or refund policy.


I can see how an older child like yours (12) would be better able to engage with the "talking points," although I do wonder how interesting they will be. If slogging through them is part of a drill with a certain result in mind (like remediation) I can see how it might be useful. Have you read through them, though? They are not natural text, but ungainly mish-mashes of vocabulary words strung together. As lists of words assembled in a prose-like form, they are good collections of words one might like to study, but would be a real frustration or bore for a child to actually read.



Here is the sales pitch from the company, which I paste in as an example of the indicated age range. They really seem to pitch the program for young children. I want to stress that I do not find these examples to represent unrealistic results for the 36 words in the program at all, and in fact are likely to be typical:



"Little Marin, five weeks before her third birthday, walked out of her bedroom and informed her grandmother that she was wearing a striated dress. The same day, she looked into the kitchen and told her sister that the coffee cup atop the microwave was inverted.


Evan, almost four, made big leaps in applying the roots he learned through Visual Vocabulary’s methods. Without hesitation he chose the dormitory over the auditorium for the hypothetical college student who wanted to go to bed. How did he know? “Sleep,†was his reply. He had learned that dorm meant sleep and seen visual definitions of the word dormant. And when told about a movie he had never seen and asked to match clock, teapot, or candlestick to the name Lumiere, Evan rightly chose the candlestick. Time spent working with the word luminous had taught him about light.


Chelsea, Dominique, and Aidan also learned the meaning of luminous. After going through the deck once, none of them had any problem understanding a request to illuminate the room. Aidan jumped to the switch.


After being introduced to the word verdant through Visual Vocabulary’s methods, a group of preschoolers at a recent MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting mobbed a pot of artificial foliage to demonstrate their understanding."

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