The most common complaint I receive from my students is, “There are too many words, too many definitions, the words are too hard to spell……..”
Sound familiar? I read once that a first year biology class has more new vocabulary words than the first year of taking a foreign language. I believe that this must be true. When I talk to a struggling biology student, they will usually tell me that they understand the concepts and they understand the “how and why” things work as they do, but they just hate to memorize the vocabulary words.
I try very hard to make my class a “concept” class. I want my students to have a global understanding of how all the parts of biology fit together. I want them to have the big picture and to be able to relate one process to another. I want them to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. But, I still think the students need to have a mastery of the vocabulary that accompanies the concepts. I think kids need to be able to spell the important and key terms.
There are many strategies and methods I use to help students memorize vocabulary words, but my favorite is the crossword puzzle.
I make a crossword puzzle for every chapter I teach. Believe it or not, my students actually like these. Sometimes I assign them for homework, but more often I use them to award some extra credit points on my unit tests. I give the puzzle out a few days before the test. If it is completed by test day….accurately….then I give some extra points on the test. I think this is great reinforcement of associating the term with the correct definition, AND it is also good spelling practice.
The phylum Platyhelminthes and the Phylum Nematoda