Using scientific terminologyI am looking for new ideas on improving student's science vocabulary. I have tried word walls, reading the science times section in the NY Times, reading for meaning...

Using scientific terminology

I am looking for new ideas on improving student's science vocabulary. I have tried word walls, reading the science times section in the NY Times, reading for meaning activities, etc. I would love some suggestions as to helping get our students comfortable using scientific jargon.

Expert Answers
sboeman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although I teach English, I think learning Greek and Latin root words help students understand the etymology of scientific terms; for example, "-itis" typically means "inflammation of", so any word that precedes it means an inflammation of that area: bronchitis, appendicitis, etc.  "Ortho" means "straight, "Ped" means "foot", so an orthopedic specialist would specialize in what?  There are a lot of examples to use.

Find a website or a vocabulary book with a list, then create flashcards or have students try to think of words with those roots.  Also, I have students make up new words by putting different root words together-they have a blast thinking these up and they remember the terms much better too!  Maybe you could come up with new scientific abnormalities in order to get more specifically tailored to the "science" topic.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm totally with #3, and that's what I would have suggested.  Any new vocabulary is best connected to current vocabulary.  That means we (English teachers) should be teaching vocabulary in terms of roots, prefixes, and suffixes.  Once they know them, the rest becomes almost a challenge.  When we're working on such things, I like to use the word anthropomorphism.  It's an intimidating word, but it's full of "pieces" which can be broken down and pulled apart until the meaning becomes clear.   Try that with a scientific word (sorry, can't think of one) which can be analyzed using their current understanding of words (i.e., no one has to study to know that "re" means "again).  Good luck!

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Word Walls are a particularly effective strategy, but only if you draw students' attention to the Word Wall on a regular basis. Written activities can reference the Word Wall. Encourage students to use it when taking quizzes and tests.

One of the best ways to develop a Word Wall is to have the students create it and keep it up. Award extra points for students using words from the Word Wall in their writing assignments.

You can also coordinate your Word Wall with other subject area teachers' vocabulary activities, and include theirs with your science activities when it's practical.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I, too, use root words, prefixes and suffixes.  Most of these come from Latin and Greek, and we learn five to six new ones each week.  On Fridays, we play root word BINGO, and once in a while I have them create monster words for fun.  We put them on the projector/smartboard, and then figure out what our newly created words would mean if they were real words.  It's great fun, and always good for a laugh.  Not to mention, it helps them do very well on the SAT and ACT exams!

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Go roots! Most important way to learn scientific terms, definitely. Although I like other editors only teach English, I have a word wall of new vocab and I award extra credit to students who use them accurately in assignments. Works really well! Etymology really helps students grasp the relationship between words and as #6 identifies, really helps with SATs!

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Make sure you combine the stuff from the above posts--they have good ideas, and if you use them together, it works best. What I mean is that roots/prefixes/suffixes have to be defined, AND then posted on a word wall. And then referred to any time that word part comes up in a new word. So many of the words on SAT/ACT have scientific roots it is unbelievable.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems that students have difficulty with vocabulary terms in science. I find that it is beneficial to teach them the meanings of root words first. If they are able to identify those then they have a better grasp on the meaning of the word. I also find that games help them remember vocabulary terms.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I too agree with post 3 - and on those lines - word relationships also work.  Science is so categorical to me - everything organizes itself so well.  If you could find ways to show relationships between words (Gr. and Lat. roots are natural) it might help students to remember through connections.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The science teachers I have observed have always spent a lot of time on teaching roots to their students. It has been a successful way for them to teach their students the vocabulary used in their science classrooms.