Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Vocabulary War

Science vocabulary is the bane of our existence.

Mrs. Eagle and I have spent years trying to figure out ways to get our kids to learn their science vocabulary. Mrs. Hummingbird is now collaborating with us as well, and she's facing the same problems we have had for years.

In short:

If you don't know the science vocabulary we're using, then we might as well be speaking a foreign language (Klingon comes to mind).

Therefore, if you don't know what we're talking about, you're probably not going to understand anything and you'll most likely do poorly in science.

We've finally ended up with an Academic Coach that understands that the same tools you may use for vocabulary in language (Frayer models, finding synonyms, etc.) don't work particularly well for science.

Dare you to find a synonym for mitochondria, for example.

Our vocabulary is somewhat technical. It's specialized. It's not something you can easily work with. It is what it is and quite honestly, it comes down to using the words and studying the words until they are embedded in that long term memory.

Of course, playing video games is a lot more fun than doing vocabulary work.

We have the kids do crosswords (they hate these, they'd rather do word search which requires no thought). We have a word wall. We have vocabulary games. We have vocabulary cards or foldables , (word on one side, definition on the other, extra credit for a picture) where a kid gets a freaking point if all they do is write the word on a card. They are supposed to use these to study and learn their words. We even spend a few minutes a day doing vocabulary games which involve a great many Jilly Rancher candies.

And this year we have the vocabulary study log. We are trying, despite their best efforts to avoid it, to get parents involved in their child's learning. We have a study log where the parent signs every night after their child has studied his or her vocabulary flash cards or foldables for five minutes. It isn't worth a whole lot in terms of points, but it is an easy way to boost a grade.

And it's astounding how few of these we get turned in.

It is, however, improving. We had our second unit test on Friday, which is also the day the study log and the vocabulary cards are due. I saw a pretty huge uptick in the number of cards that were completed and turned in as well as the number of logs turned in. Amazingly enough, they had much better grades on this test than they did on the previous one.

Do ya think there's a connection? Huh? Do ya?

Now lets see if the shovelers can figure this out.


The Vegas Art Guy said...


The smart ones will figure it out, as will the ones with involved parents. The rest? Who knows?

Klingon? Good thing I was not drinking anything...

Dan Edwards said...

Beware of LMB...Linda Mood Bell ! Our district, at least our school, is trying to cram this "special education" program on our science and history teachers......

Ever try having the kids create illustrated dictionaries? I have had mine create illustrated Geography the student creates, finds in magazine or online...along with the vocabulary term.