Monday, April 22, 2013

Taking Control of YOUR Vocabulary: Music Edition

By Dan Altano

If you’re like me, you learn best when you can relate to the subject you're studying. Sure, we can cram for a test and then regurgitate answers the next morning for a decent grade, but when it comes to truly retaining something new, we like things to be in contexts that make sense to our lives. That’s why it can be challenging for us to learn difficult vocabulary from a flashcard with no examples, or perhaps worse, from boring examples that don't relate to everyday life.
That’s where VocabSlam comes in. Think of it like an Etch-A-Sketch for vocabulary. We supply you with the knobs (the word and definition), but how you design your sentence is entirely up to you. 
One thing we noticed from the plethora of sentence examples submitted by VocabSlam users over the past several months is how often people combine difficult vocabulary with what they already know, resulting in clever and memorable sentences.

VocabSlam and Music  

In the second installment of this three-part blog about taking control of your vocabulary (read part 1 here), we feature VocabSlam user submissions that merge music with vocabulary. Columbia University Professor Christopher Emdin has done this with science education to great success, and studies show how such a combination has proved successful. Check out how VocabSlammers use their voices and their instruments to etch the meanings of difficult vocabulary words into their brains. 

Freestyle Master
Word: Emulate (Verb); to strive to equal or excel; IMITATE

This up-and-coming MC freestyles his way to a better test score using the word emulate:

Owning It
Word: Incoherent (adjective); lacking clarity, cohesion, or intelligibility
Okay so maybe this guy won't be filling in on drums for RUSH any time soon, but who cares? Here he turns his limitations into an opportunity to learn some new vocab and to make us laugh:

Diligence Rewarded

Word: Diligent (adjective); characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort

This one is simply incredible. Watch this VocabSlammer show what diligence can do when learning a unique skill:

Jam off Slam Off
Word: Callous (adjective); feeling or showing no sympathy for others

In this video, multiple VocabSlammers use music to vent their frustrations with callous people:

Plethora of Jams!
Word: Plethora (noun); a super abundance; an excess

The street musician at the end of this video creates a song on the spot to tell us about the plethora of jams he has to offer. We dare you to try getting this jingle out of your head once you hear it:

Rocking Redemption
Word: Discredit (verb); to refuse to accept as true or accurate

This VocabSlammer aims to prove the haters wrong by rocking out on her guitar:

Say Cello!
Word: Jubilation (noun); an expression of great joy

A cello player shows her jubilation through song:

Benevolent Beats
Word: Benevolent (adjective); marked by or disposed to doing good
This hip hop drummer doesn't skip a beat when it comes to vocab:
Behind the Vocab
Word: Compassion (noun); sympathetic awareness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it

This VocabSlammer uses the word compassion to tell an inspiring story:

That Good Old Feeling
Word: Effusive (adjective); marked by the expression of great or excessive emotion or enthusiasm

Famous Italian guitarist Davide Citrolo effusively jams on his favorite song:

I hope your ears and minds were pleased with these examples. Remember: taking control of your vocabulary starts with YOU. Now it's your turn to come up with some sentences of your own. Can't play an instrument or sing? So what? Grab some pots and pans, strum the back of a tennis racket, or use the back of a comb as a microphone and rock out to some vocab! Be sure to post them on

About the author:  Dan Altano is Marketing Director at VocabSlam. He also teaches in the English Department at the City College of New York and is the front man of the New York City based band, Withersby. You can reach him at


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