Do you strategically and habitually focus on vocabulary in your content areas? Read my "Why Vocabulary Instruction" post to see why I think it's so important.
What's a vocabulary mat? A vocabulary mat is an idea I came up with to use instead of a regular flashcard strategy for learning and studying vocabulary. Imagine students with piles and piles of science vocabulary words to study. It can get overwhelming. With vocabulary mats, the sheet of related vocabulary words stays intact (preferably copied on card stock). Students place the definitions over the top of the correct vocabulary word. You could do this the opposite way (definition sheet stays intact and the vocabulary words are placed by students), but I thought about which way would force students to engage more with the definitions and decided that they were more likely to read the definitions if those were the cards they cut apart and held in their hands. You can use the vocabulary mats right at the beginning of a unit to assess students' knowledge of the important vocabulary words/concepts for the unit.
Here's a quick list of the new-or newly updated-vocabulary mat products. While I was focused on the NC Essential Standards, I am sure these vocabulary strategies would be useful for anyone teaching units focused on these topics.
The updated ecosystems mat includes one mat for ecosystems related words (producer, consumer, decomposer, food web, food chain, carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, etc) and another mat focused on types of Ecosystems (temperate deciduous forest, estuary, wetland, salt marsh, riparian marsh, temperate ocean, tropical ocean, tropical rain forest, coniferous forest, etc.) If you have purchased this product in the past, you can download the new update for free.
For Energy and Matter, I combined these vocabulary mats into one product. The vocabulary words are still on two separate mats, but I felt that many teachers might combine these concepts into one unit and would like to have both mats readily available.
I also worked on my vocabulary activities packs for Ecosystems, Energy, and Matter.
Each vocabulary pack contains the following activities:
-Word Knowledge Continuum (full sheet, 1/2 sheet for science notebooks, and the posters below to use for a 4 corners word knowledge activity)
-Categorize and Label prior knowledge strategy (full sheet, 1/2 sheet for science notebooks)-students group words into categories that make sense to them and label.
*I use both of the above strategies on the first day of each science unit. It allows me to gauge students' prior knowledge while also exposing them to key words and creating excitement for our upcoming unit. For categorize and label, I allow misconceptions without correcting students. In future lessons, students go back to the categorize and label sheet and create new categories based on new learning.
-Vocabulary Cards for Student Sorting these can also be used on the first day(s) of the unit or placed in a station for students to practice categorizing the words more often. (I like to have students work in partners and record their sorts. Later, they can turn their sorts into concept maps). I also like to copy these onto cardstock.
-Simple Word Wall cards/vocabulary cards to display in room. I like to copy these on cardstock (a different color for each unit) and place magnetic tape on the back. As part of our science workshop debrief, we create a classroom "Categories and Labels" visual. We turn it into a concept map later by making it more detailed. (I will try to get you all a picture of what we have done for our ecosystems unit as an example :))
-Give 1, Get 1 Vocabulary/Unit review game In Give 1, Get 1, students prepare their sheet by filling out 4 blocks. They then move around the room trading with classmates until their card is full. (More detailed explanation is included with the vocabulary packs).
I have vocabulary mats for other topics, including:
I hope you found ideas here that you can use in your own science (or other content area) instruction. It's so important to continuously expose students to vocabulary so that they become "owners" of those vocabulary words.