My Favorite Things: Science Vocabulary

If you've been a teacher for very long, you've probably experienced that moment when you're going along, minding your own business, trying to stay afloat in the ever-expanding quagmire of so many available resources that your head is spinning, when stumble across that one resource that makes you say, "Um, wow...where have you been all my life?" If you've been a teacher for very long, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

This past year was my first experience teaching fifth grade. Once upon a time, I worked as a long-term substitute in a fifth-grade class, but other than that, I'd spent my entire teaching career in fourth-grade self-contained and seventh-grade ICT. I enjoyed both of them, but for some reason, working with fifth graders has been a dream of mine since college. Perhaps it goes back to my own delightful year in fifth grade during which time my mom was going through her "big bangs" phase and was determined that I would share in her shame, er...fame. Worthy of note: she has never apologized. Pffft.

Anyway, so I was over-the-moon thrilled when I was offered a DREAM-COME-TRUE position teaching fifth-grade math and science at a rural school whose class sizes average about 12-15 students. #score The only drawback was that, while I was already very comfortable teaching math, I didn't feel nearly as great about teaching science. I liked science and had always enjoyed what little bit of science instruction I was allowed to do in a grade in which it wasn't tested. (Insert collective sigh of teachers all over the US.) But I definitely had some concerns about my ability to walk into a tested grade and be immediately successful. I am not a fan of textbooks, and that was basically the extent of what my school had to offer. While my lack of experience scared me a little, I'm a nerd and avid reader by nature, so I jumped enthusiastically into exploring all things "science in education"!

Enter...Google. What in the world did we do before Google??? Google. Knows. Everything. Not long into my research, I was completely overwhelmed with all that the search engine had to offer on how to teach science effectively in elementary school. In addition, I read book after amazing book and scoured Teachers Pay Teachers weekly for nonfiction passages, interactive notebook activities, vocabulary resources... You name it, I searched for it. As you can probably imagine, I found a lot of great stuff that I will continue to use for years to come. But what, you may ask, is my all-time favorite resource for teaching science vocabulary? It's this puppy right here.

The Science Penguin's "Science Vocabulary Hands-On Instruction" has been a LIFE SAVER and EYE OPENER all in one glorious package! The format for its use is simply fantastic: first, students complete a hands-on activity that allows them to get exposure to and interact with the concept; then, students take notes and draw pictures while the teacher explicitly instructs them on new vocabulary terms and their definitions; next, students use their newfound knowledge of the vocabulary to go back and label their sketch with the new terms; and finally, students complete an "I Learned..." page in their interactive notebooks to further reflect on their learning. (To read more about my personal experience with this product, check out this post!)

I kid you not--this is one of my all-time favorite purchases. My kiddos greatly enjoy the activities, and they evidence a much greater understanding of science concepts and vocabulary when taught in this fashion, rather than simply copying words and definitions into their notebooks, words and definitions with which they're completely unfamiliar. It's an incredible resource, and I am so grateful to The Science Penguin for sharing her creativity with the rest of us! If YOU are looking for an engaging, rigorous way to help your students experience authentic learning, be sure to check it out!


No comments

Back to Top