Science vocabulary often contains long, complex words that are unfamiliar to students. Here are some teaching strategies to help students learn and remember science vocabulary terms.
A word wall is an alphabetized list of the vocabulary words for each chapter or unit, displayed in a highly visible location on the wall. Word walls can be made by writing the vocabulary words with an erasable marker on reusable sentence strips, or on large sheets of butcher paper. All of the words can be put up at the beginning of the unit, or words can be added to the word wall as they are encountered in the textbook. Word walls are useful for students to use as a reference, and can be used for whole class review activities in which the teacher gives the definition and students must identify the word that goes with it.
Students can create their own personal dictionaries with their vocabulary words. Each page is dedicated to one word, and should include the definition, the word used in a sentence and a drawing illustrating the word.
Often science words have Latin or Greek roots, and if they are broken down into their composite parts, they will make more sense to students and be easier to remember. To reinforce the meaning, ask students what other words they can think of that have a similar root.
Word Games and Puzzles
Students love puzzles and games, and these can be used as engaging ways to help them learn their science vocabulary words. There are many different types of games that help students build vocabulary skills. Crossword puzzles, word searches and scrambled words help students recognize their vocabulary words and enhance spelling skills. There are free websites where you can create custom made crossword puzzles and other word games, such as Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker site http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/
Matching games are another enjoyable way for students to learn vocabulary. It’s easy to create a game by making two sets of cards, one with vocabulary words and one with definitions. The cards can be made of plain paper, card stock, or even laminated. It is helpful if the word cards and the definition cards are different colors, so it is easier for the students to keep track and sort them. Students can work in pairs or groups, so you don’t need a set of cards for every student.