By Gina Kennedy

By Gina Kennedy

Never Underestimate the Power of Science Vocabulary!

     Research has proven over and over again that "science literacy" is the key to student science success.  
     Years ago when I was teaching 5th grade science, I was on a team that visited an elementary school miles away that had developed a reputation of scoring high on the state science exams year after year even though they were a Title One school and had a high Non-English speaking population.  We spent two days watching how they used "literacy" with an emphasis on vocabulary and how well it worked.  New vocabulary words were introduced each week, practiced, reviewed and invitations to use the words authentically in different writing genres were created.  
     Even though science was my least desired subject to teach, that experience was more than beneficial in understanding how to implement science vocabulary more effectively with my science class.  
     Science word walls were authentically created by the students.  By having the students create the word walls themselves, they were able to take ownership of the vocabulary and have a clearer understanding of each concept.

I created a 59-term Science Word Wall and provided an opportunity for my students to illustrate each concept.  This allowed the students grasp a more in-depth understanding of each term.

To download a copy of the free word wall to use in your own classroom, click  HERE !




I assigned the words and terms to different students.  Students presented their words to the entire class and explained their illustrations as well as their knowledge of the scientific concept.  Once we had created our entire "Class Science Word Wall" we revisited the wall frequently throughout the year.


The following strategies are also wonderful ways to involve your students in your word wall as a useful instructional tool:

 "I’m Thinking Of" Game.  A student stands in the front of the classroom as the other students have their backs turned towards the science word wall.  The student in front of the class chooses a word off the science wall and the rest of the class will ask ten “yes or no” questions trying to figure out which science word they have chosen.

"Write Five":   Write five of the science words on the dry erase board and ask the students to pretend they are scientists and connect the words scientifically in a short story.  

“Three Strikes, You’re Out!”  Divide your class into teams.  Choose a word on the science wall and start saying clues such as “This word can be found in any science lab.”  Keep giving clues until one team guesses it right.  But they only get three strikes and after they are out, they can’t win that round.  Choose a designated number of rounds needed for a team to win.

"Word Wall Elimination":   Each student chooses ten words from the word wall.  That is their Word Wall Elimination List.  Start saying definitions of science words from the wall.  If a student’s word on their list is defined they can cross it off.  The first student to have all their science words crossed off wins.  Keep track of the definitions you have stated to see if they crossed off the correct words

"Categories":  Each day choose a different category such as “Laboratory”, “Earth Forces” or etc.  The students must choose all the words on the wall that they think are associated with that category and explain their reasoning.                                                                                                                                                  

Science Multiple Meaning Words

Words with multiple meanings can be confusing for students proficient in English; but are especially troublesome for English language learners or struggling readers. It is important to discuss these meanings with students. When we confuse common definitions with meanings used in science, students’ understanding suffers. For example, in common use, “theory” means a hunch, while in science, a “theory” is a well-established explanation of the natural world based on solid evidence. “Reflections” are commonly thought of as thoughts, which contrast with “reflections” of light rays. Many other words appear in both scientific vocabulary and in everyday speech, including:
matter
observe
variable
conductor
conservation
living
volume
balance
receiver
communicate


Work with students to identify the different meanings and applications of words with multiple meanings.  Whenever you're introducing science vocabulary, discuss any possible multiple meanings that might confuse your students.


I have also created an entire year's worth of vocabulary lessons for 5th graders in which all of the twenty-seven lessons include a well thought out list of vocabulary terms, activities to determine meaning, writing exercises and differentiated enrichment writing projects.


Click HERE to download a free sample from my 5th Grade Vocabulary resource.


To purchase all twenty-seven lessons from my "5th Grade Science Vocabulary" resources, click on the links below:
5th Grade Vocabulary, 27 Lessons
5th Grade STAAR Vocabulary, 27 Lessons