How to Teach Vocabulary in Science

“There are so many definitions to learn!” I’ve probably heard this a thousand times during my teaching career. The truth is that vocabulary and definitions are an important part of science and your students will need to learn the vocabulary. But at least we can try to make it fun.

Why is teaching vocabulary important?

We are training young scientists and scientists use scientific language. Our students need to be able to use the correct terminology when required. It shows that they understand the concept being taught and avoids confusion when discussing scientific concepts. 

Students tend to confuse similar words and ideas if they do not have a good grasp of the vocabulary, for example interchanging element and atom with each other.

I’m going to share some of my favorite ways to incorporate vocabulary into my lessons. Sometimes they don’t even realize that they are learning definitions!

Using Games to Teach vocabulary

During distance learning, we started to use different online games and platforms in fun and creative ways. I love using Boom Cards as a way to assess understanding. These self-grading decks are an easy and fun way to review vocabulary and definitions.

Kahoot is a huge hit with my students. The competitiveness between High Schoolers are something to behold! The games are easy to create and are perfect to use at the end of the lesson or even as review before an assessment.

If you don’t want to use technology, a good old “I have… Who has…” game is another effective way to get all of your students involved and practice those definitions. 

Using Card Sorts to Teach vocabulary

Card Sorts are a must-have in my classroom. I have created sets for all the Biology topics that I teach. They are laminated and I keep them in photo boxes on a shelf in my class. I use sets during lessons, but students can also check out a set when they are busy with review work. Each set has a student answer sheet that they can complete and file. The idea is that they will have a complete glossary of keywords by the end of the year. A laminated copy of the answer key lives in a file that my students will use to check their own work and make corrections as needed.

You can read more about the other ways in which I use card sorts here.

Crosswords are fun!

I love a good crossword puzzle! They are low-prep, easy to use, and make for a great emergency sub-plan. At the start of the school year, I make a lot of copies of each and keep them in an accordion folder in my class. They are available to my students if they need extra practice and I always have some on hand for those early finishers.

Are you interested in trying a Vocabulary Card Sort?

I would love for you to try one of my Vocabulary Card Sorts. You can get the Respiration set by following this link. Please let me know what you think!

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