Vocabulary Mats: My FAVORITE SCIENCE STUDY STRATEGY!
In my last blog post, I mentioned that Vocabulary Mats are the ONE GO TO SCIENCE VOCABULARY strategy that I CANNOT TEACH WITHOUT. Because I LOVE this vocabulary strategy so much, I wanted to spend a whole blog post sharing more about them and how I implement them in the classroom.
Vocabulary Mats really came to be in my classroom because science became a tested subject for my 5th graders years ago in North Carolina.
I realized that for many of my students, they wouldn't simply pass the test because they LOVE science, or because they engaged in the activities that I planned for them, or because they could be a good group member when collaborating with classmates. My students could be science lovers and still risk bombing this test! I was not okay with setting them up for that kind of failure.
Whether or not they had mastery of the key vocabulary of our science units would be the deciding factor in whether or not they passed the test.
To be honest, it was the test that put the importance of vocabulary mastery on my "content-area" radar.
I wanted my students to have a fun way to practice their words and for us to see growth in their learning over time.
Vocabulary mats are where it's at!
I believe in them because I've seen students (including those with learning disabilities and English language learners) master their science vocabulary because of the time spent practicing and using these vocabulary mats.
HOW TO PREPARE VOCABULARY MATS
Although you could have students leave the definitions intact and cut apart the word mat, I believe that having the definitions cut apart to place onto the word mat encourages students to read the definitions carefully and makes it less likely that they just memorize the placement of the cards.
If you incorporate vocabulary mats into multiple units, I suggest copying each unit/set of vocabulary mats on different colors of card stock. (For example, the Landforms set on yellow, Ecosystems on green, etc). Card stock will allow for more durability as you use vocabulary mats again and again.
I use matching colors for the definition cards that students will cut apart. This will keep the individual mats separate and allow students to easily find the materials for the specific unit they want to study.
I give students a sheet protector to put their vocabulary mat and definition cards in for safe keeping. This is perfect because students can place the vocabulary mats safely in a binder or folder and keep up with the cards more easily.
HOW TO USE VOCABULARY MATS
To use the vocabulary mats for content-area vocabulary mastery, students place definitions over the top of the words FACE UP so that YOU can see their definition matches as you rotate the room and give them feedback.
While students are practicing with their vocabulary mats, I rotate the room checking over students' answers. I turn all of the CORRECT answers facedown so that the student knows they are correct!
I leave any INCORRECT answers face up so that they know it needs to change (circled in blue) OR I move the incorrect answers off of the word mat for the student.
I use this strategy as a prior knowledge assessment activity at the beginning of our science units. I like to see what my students already know at the start of a unit and I like to give students the opportunity to see and feel the growth as we do the activity again and again and they can place more words correctly with more ease.
Is science a tested subject in your grade level?
When 4th quarter rolls around, I turn my word study block into a science vocabulary review period.
Students pull out their vocabulary mats and choose which science concepts they need to spend their time studying. 15 minutes of class time goes a long way to help students master their vocabulary.
As we get closer to the test, students also take their vocabulary mats home and use them to study their words.
Science Vocabulary has become a mini-blog series this month!
You may also be interested in reading:
If you are interested in adding VOCABULARY MATS to your SCIENCE routines, you can check out the Vocabulary Mats I have available.
These resources not only include vocabulary mats, but another strategy I call "study slips," and multiple-choice and open-ended vocabulary quizzes so that you can document progress!
HUMAN BODY SYSTEMS
Need something you do not see? I am happy to take requests at tarheelstateteacher(at)gmail(dot)com!