remember by writing. Our goal is to give students methods
that are purposeful for them, methods that work for their
A better way might be to allow students to design their
Create your own method to practice spelling words or choose one
of the following: Write or type the words three times, spell them
out loud, use Scrabble tiles to spell them, trace them with your
finger, or create a puzzle using the words.
often expected to learn new words to prepare for reading or a
But does writing definitions really help us learn what words
mean? Writing definitions is a low-level rote task—students
best learn the meanings of new words by using them in
context. A better task might be one of the following:
Show that you know the meaning of the science vocabulary words
by using them in sentences or in a story.
© Akiko Aoki/Getty imAGes
The teacher could also make the task more meaningful by
having students connect the spellings to a spelling rule (such
as “i before e, except after c”).
The second assignment is to “Write definitions of the 15
science vocabulary words.” Although the words may have
been discussed in class, they’re probably new; students are
For each vocabulary word, read the three sentences below it.
Choose the sentence that uses the word correctly.
A more thoughtful way to understand and remember
what words mean is to assign the vocabulary words as an
application task after the lesson. For instance, one middle
school teacher has students build and launch rockets. After