Vocabulary Strategies for Science Activities in High School

... Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

For some students, complex scientific vocabulary is a major hurdle standing in the way of success in science. Science is full of specialized terms that, if not understood, can prevent the student from understanding the lesson as a whole. Teaching students the requisite vocabulary for academic success doesn't have to be difficult. By employing creative activities and games into vocabulary instruction, teachers can teach science-related vocabulary more effectively and create a pleasurable learning experience for students.

1 Vocabulary Toss

Give students the opportunity to shoot some hoops while practicing their vocabulary word identification. Acquire a small suction cup or stand-alone basketball hoop with a spongy ball. Set the hoop up in the class. Select a spot that is a reasonable distance from the hoop and use masking tape to create a free-throw line. Divide the students into teams. Allow one student at a time to step up to the free-throw line. Read a definition to the student and ask him to provide you with the vocabulary word that matches the definition you provided. If he provides the correct vocabulary word, award his team a point. As a reward for providing the right answer, he has the opportunity to shoot for an extra point. If he makes the shot, his team earns a bonus point. Continue through the activity, alternating teams until you are out of words or until one team has reached a predetermined point level.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Walking Flash Cards

Add some excitement to vocabulary development by employing an action-packed relay game. Before class, write vocabulary words and definitions each on a separate index card. Tape all of the word cards on the wall on one side of your classroom and all of the definition cards on the opposite wall. Once students arrive in class, divide them into two teams. Have each team form a single file line in the center of the room. Then, allow one team member from each team to race to the word wall and remove a word from the wall, then the move to the definition wall and remove the corresponding definition from that wall. Once the student thinks that they have found a match, they can bring the cards to you and you can confirm match. Once a student has successfully found a match, they move to the end of the line and another student from their team takes a turn. Continue until all of the words have been matched up. Whichever team has the most matches at the end of the game wins.

3 Erasing Relay

Test students' abilities to paraphrase definitions through this fast-paced game. Start by dividing the class into two teams. Have the teams form two single file lines in front of the chalkboard, one line on the left side of the board, and one line on the right side of the board. Select an even number of vocabulary words and write half on one side of the board and half on the other. Flip a coin to see which team will go first. When it is the team's turn to play, have the member that is at the front of the line go up to the board and read the word aloud, then provide you with definition of the term in their own words. If they are successful, they can erase the word. If they are unsuccessful, the word remains on their list to be attempted by the next student. Once the student has made an attempt, he moves to the end of the line. Alternate between the two teams until all of the words have been erased. The team that clears their board first is the winner.

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.