How do you keep students from losing attention when you’re teaching difficult science terminology?
—M., Iowa

Regardless of the grade, you should approach science vocabulary just like teaching another language. It is very important that you teach new words in context. Connect the term to what it describes and use it as needed. You will lose students’ attention if you give them a list of words to define before you start teaching them the concept. I encourage you to look at the glossary of your textbook—I find many of the definitions unintelligible.

Start small by introducing a few terms as you need them, reinforcing them often. A word wall, where you add new words as you introduce them, can be useful and fun. Have students verbally practice the terminology as much as possible in discussions with their peers. Many games reinforce vocabulary, such as one of my favorites, Word of the Day—in which students cheer or otherwise celebrate when they notice a new term.

You can dissect words to show students the many common suffixes, roots, and prefixes in science terminology. It may help them piece together an unfamiliar term or at least get the gist of it. “Rhinitis” may trigger a student to put together “rhino-“ and “-itis” into “horn swelling”, which is not far from the stuffy, runny nose it describes!

Don’t forget to review terms from previous lessons.

Hope this helps!

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

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