Sunday, October 9, 2011

How do you teach science vocabulary in a way that makes sense?

Vocabulary has always been a sticking point in many of our students lives.  Some come from families where they use enriching vocabulary without even knowing it....they take walks together and observe the leaves changing in the fall.  They read books together and when they get to a word the child doesn't know...they talk about it.  Some families have deep conversations at the dinner table talking about world events or something interesting that happened at their work.  In those families, vocabulary is naturally developed in context of the world around them.

In other families...not so much.  And so, when they come to our classrooms and we throw out words like niche, population and community they look at us like...huh????

When I want to teach a new word or concept in my classroom, I try to do it as I did with my own two boys in natural settings.  I may highlight a word when I'm reading aloud that is interesting or confusing.  We may write the word on a card and stick it up to come back to later. 

In science, I try to do the same thing.  For example, this week we were introducing the concept of niche.  We decided to use our worms as a way to introduce the idea of roles in an ecosystem.  This is the result:
You can see we started with the focus question:  What role do worms have in our school yard ecosystem?  Then I started reading a non-fiction book about worms to them so we could learn about the roles of our worms. We learned about the band on the worms and how it usually carries the eggs, the cocoons or eggs that they will drop and the castings or poop.  As we read we learned that the worm helps to loosen the soil through tunnels, the castings make the soil richer and many animals eat them.

The students were then introduced to the word niche and told that niche is just the scientific word for role of an animals in a habitat.
They seemed to get that concept pretty easily.

I am have also posted some ideas for Vocabulary in Science in my documents side bar.  This is FREE for this week and then I will take it off when I post it on Teacher's Pay Teachers next weekend. .  I hope to feature more throughout the week.

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