Vocabulary can be the Waterloo for many a biology student. Although I have tried this year to tame the mountain our resource material throws at them, I need to do a better job of clearly identifying the absolute-most-important-gotta-know-'em-cold terms. Some words, like "cell" are more important than others (e.g. "peduncle"). But if you're a kid looking at the list of key terms for a given chapter, there is nothing to help sort them in terms of priority. It's hard to make sense of what a eukaryote is if you don't know about a nucleus. If you don't have the concept of an organelle in mind first, it's nearly impossible to connect to a mitochondrion. And so on.
So, this post is a reminder to me to spend more time on vocabulary skills. I don't ask my kids to write out definitions---I don't think that's a valuable way to go. Science is the one area where kids need concrete experiences first. We do lots of labs and activities, but I need to stop more along the way and give kids consistent practice with organizing the terms in various ways.
Do you have a favourite strategy to share? Leave it in the comments. :)