Teacher Alice writes:
“I am a 5th grade science teacher. I’m looking for some ways to teach vocabulary that will keep the students engaged and excited about learning and applying the words to their study of science. What can I do? Memorize, rinse, and repeat is getting old.”
Great question, Alice! There are so many ways to spice up your vocabulary instruction, and lots of activities could apply not just to science but across all disciplines. Here are some ideas from our Teacher HELPLINE.
- I have a science word wall. This keeps the vocabulary at the forefront of the students’ minds since the words are visuals in the classroom. – Aleshia W.
- I use Google Classroom. For vocabulary, I create a powerpoint presentation and have them define the word and add a picture to illustrate its meaning. – Cathey S.
- One of the best ways I have found to have students interact with vocabulary is to make their own picture dictionaries. You could do it as computer-based image searches or students can draw their own pictures. – Seana F.
- LearningAtoZ.com is excellent for vocabulary lessons, including analogies and games. I use it all the time. – Crissy W.
- I make a Jeopardy! game from vocabulary words and create two groups in the class that compete against each other. They love it and learn so much! – Anita M.
- Have you tried Kahoot? My 5th graders love it! – Valerie K.
- A fun game I’ve used is “I Am.” The teacher starts with a card that says “Who is?” and then a vocabulary word. One student will have a card that says “I Am” with the definition. (Example: Teacher: Who is a force? Student: I am a push or pull in a specific direction. Who is buoyancy? It goes around the room with students calling on each other.) It makes kids listen to each other. I’ve done it as a competition to see how quickly they can do it. We set a goal time and do it daily until they reach it. They love doing it. – Kelsey K.
- Give them a choice board of different vocabulary activities, and then have them choose a certain number of items to complete per week. – Lonnie S.
- Break students into groups and give each group a word that they have to present quickly to the class so everyone remembers it. They can sing, rap, and do skits or hand motions. The most important thing is that the kids are using the vocabulary words–that’s how they will remember them. – Karen O.
- Make it a game. Whether it’s a crossword or word search, having students engage with the words will reinforce their knowledge. – Kathleen C.
- We play the “flyswatter game”. Two students come up to the board and each takes a flyswatter. Write two words on the board, then read the definition of one of them. The first student to slap the correct word then plays against the next student with new words, and so on. – Jackie M.
- I give my 8th graders a list of the words at the beginning of the unit. As we move through the unit, they define the words as they discover them. You could then check their work weekly to make sure they have as many definitions as they should. – Michelle A.
- I like to do quick quizzes with vocabulary. Each class period, I throw a few words the students have up on the white board, and they write down the meanings. They are already grouped by lab tables, so sometimes we have a mini competition. It’s quick and gets them in the habit of reviewing the vocabulary words. – Darenda B.
Teachers, share your great vocabulary ideas in the comments section below!