I've often heard that a rich vocabulary is essential for success in life and school. I myself, have a large vocabulary (at least I know most of the words in the Reader's Digest's Word Power challenge). I have been very concerned that my children pick up vocabulary and do it in a more enjoyable way than I did in school (those boring vocabulary workbooks). I've been scouring the homeschool catalogs and asking everyone I know for a good vocabulary program for my children. The problem with all of them is that I had to teach them or correct them. Ugh. I don't have time for that. I'm teaching three other children to read! When someone on a homeschool forum mentioned WordSmart, my ears immediately perked up. So here we are.
I installed WordSmart Adventure on my computer for my daughter to try out. WordSmart Adventure is the program for grades 3 and up. After you type in the user name, you are taken to a control panel where you can choose from various exercises. They include multiple choice, flash cards, column matching, sentence completion, and laser review. The software keep track of the percent correct for each player. The games are fun and my 4th grade daughter felt the words were challenging, which is good, because then she's learning new words.
WordSmart is a little more serious and comes separately in volumes ranging from B through J. Volumes C through F are considered the SAT/ACT preparation series. The Japanese lady I tutor in English loves this program! She spends one half of her tutoring session just soaking up all the vocabulary in WordSmart. She also loves the fact that they read aloud the words so she doesn't have to figure out how to pronounce them. WordSmart includes the same type of activities as WordSmart Adventure. I like the in-depth word studies included for each word, giving the player familiarity with word roots and origins.
Both vocabulary programs include this feature as well as pronouncing each vocabulary word. WordSmart vocabulary software has won several prestigious awards including the Gold Parent's Choice Award for WordSmart Adventure, the Silver Parent's Choice Award for WordSmart and Practical Homeschooling's ERIC award.
This software comes with a money-back guarantee on its SAT/ACT preparation series. They guarantee that the user will gain 200 points on the SAT or 4 points on the ACT if he uses it for 20 hours. That makes the program risk-free!
WordSmart Phonics uses a completely different approach than I've ever seen. It starts by teaching letter sounds on the first disc, then moves on to consonant blends on the second. The third disc introduces all vowel sounds. Each vowel sound has its own color so that the child can distinguish the sounds quickly and easily. After introducing the vowel sounds, the next disc focuses on long vowels and diphthongs. The final disc concentrates on short vowels and the schwa.
Each disc contains an "I-Read-You-Read system" where the storyteller reads the printed words aloud, leaving the underlined words out. The student is supposed to read those words, and click on the question mark, which pronounces the word correctly. One unique feature of WordSmart Phonics is that the program shows the user how to correctly pronounce sounds and words using a moving diagram of the mouth, tongue and throat. WordSmart says about its Phonics program, "If you are not absolutely thrilled, return the product for a full refund." They are confident that it will help your child learn to read quickly and easily.
I'm not convinced that WordSmart Phonics program is complete enough on it's own, but it would be a good addition to your phonics program, for remedial or English as a Second Language students. At $69.95 per volume (5 volumes total) it is quite pricey.
WordSmart also offers Math Adventure for elementary school studies to give children a head start in math basic math skills. SAT Math helps the user practice on math skills tested on the SAT in the format he will see problems on the test. It even includes practice tests. In Tutor mode, the user can see how you are doing as you solve each problem. It is worth getting if your child is intimidated by the SAT test.
I love both of the WordSmart vocabulary programs. Although I believe they are pricey, if you have more than one child and average the cost over the amount of children you have, it may be worth it. Especially since I have nothing to do with teaching the program other than making sure they spend a certain amount of time each day working on it.