Let’s talk science vocabulary activities! Sure, teaching your students new vocabulary words might not be the most glamorous and exciting part of your science unit, but it’s an important component nonetheless. Helping your students to build an understanding of vocab words should be an essential piece of your lesson plans. There are many effective ways to incorporate content-specific vocabulary practice for middle school science. Personally, I find that using a variety of fun activities, such as a fun game or crossword puzzles, are an easy way to help middle school learners come to a deeper understanding of their science vocabulary terms.
Why teach vocabulary?
As I mentioned, understanding science vocabulary words will help your middle schoolers develop a deeper understanding of science concepts. Whether you teach life science, physical science, or earth science, there are words and terms that your students need to know or they simply will struggle to make those deeper learning connections. There are many ways to approach this. You could carve out a class period or two for explicit vocabulary instruction, or you could choose to weave vocabulary practice throughout other lessons.
Both approaches are good!
But let’s get practical! What should you actually DO with your students to help them learn their vocabulary words?! I’ve got you covered, friend! Here are some of my favorite activities for vocabulary practice for middle school science.
Vocabulary Practice for Middle School Science
Vocabulary Activating Activity
Not sure how to begin your new unit? Give the A to Z Vocabulary Challenge a try! This activity is one of my “go-to’s” to assess students’ background knowledge when it comes to new unit vocabulary. This activity can be used for any grade level and aligns well with ALL science unit topics.
Here’s how it works:
`1. Give the students a topic — example: “Cells.”
2. Set a timer for 3 minutes.
3. While the timer runs, students will write down as many different vocabulary words as they can think of that are related to the topic.
4. When the timer finishes, call on students to share what they wrote down.
See?! This is a super simple way to get your students thinking about a new topic and accessing prior knowledge they’ve learned in the past. Check it out:
What middle schooler doesn’t love a good puzzle?! Whether it’s a crossword puzzle or a word search with this unit’s vocabulary list — vocabulary puzzles are a great way to review important word lists.
I’ve created a line of vocabulary puzzles that cover a wide variety of topics contained within the middle school science curriculum. These topics include:
- Cell organelles
- Scientific method
- DNA vocab
- …and more!
These vocabulary puzzles are a great way to help your students review important scientific concepts and vocabulary, check for accuracy, and even practice for standardized tests. These worksheets can be used easily as independent work, part of a small group learning station, and even make great emergency sub plans! Here are a few examples for you to check out:
Color By Number
There’s just something about coloring that is almost therapeutic. I love it! My students love it! Why not throw some scientific vocabulary into the mix??
I created this line of color by number resources to help teachers, parents, and students by providing simple yet comprehensive practice on a variety of topics. The questions are designed to be rigorous and require students to predict, reflect, connect, and think critically about the content being presented.
The concept of this resource is simple: each answer choice has a color. At the end of the worksheet, students will color a design by matching the question numbers with the answer colors. If the picture doesn’t make “sense,” students know that there must be an error in their work.
Let’s get our students thinking, reading, and reviewing vocabulary with this color by number practice.
Flashcards are one study time tool that have stood the test of time. One of the greatest perks of modern technology is the sheer wealth of online tools and websites created to better support student success while reviewing vocabulary. Gone are the days of messy, difficult to read, or lost flashcards! With programs like Quizlet available, students are able to review their key terms again and again. Quizlet has many ready-made flashcard packs for you to choose and assign, or you can create a deck specifically designed for your class.
Vocabulary Review Games
If you want to increase student engagement, play a review game! I have yet to meet a middle school student that can resist the pull of class competition and the promise of a trophy Jolly Rancher (or whatever your go-to rewards are.) Here are a few of my favorite review games to play in the middle school science classroom!
Digital Review Games
Tech-Free Review Games
- Trashket Ball
- Around the World
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