Middle School Science Vocabulary Activity: A Fun and Effective Strategy to Practice Science Words

Let’s face it: middle school students must tackle a lot of science vocabulary words if they are to fully grasp what they’re learning in class. And learning new vocabulary words can be…dry. How do you teach vocabulary in middle school science? How do you make science vocabulary fun? One of my most effective strategies for teaching middle school science vocabulary is with game cards. They are easy, require little prep from the teacher, and can be used in tons of ways to fit different needs and timeframes. Plus, they are perfect for differentiation. Read on to learn how you can implement this vocabulary activity in your classroom (and get a free middle school science vocabulary PDF).

What do the vocabulary game cards look like?

Each card has a word or phrase in a box on the top of the card. Related words and phrases are listed under the box. Seem familiar? The game Taboo has a similar layout.

How do we play this game?

The objective of the game is for card-readers to get the players to guess the word or phrase in the box at the top of the card. The rule is that the card-reader cannot say any form of the words listed under the box. (Some people call these listed words the “taboo” words.) Other rules can be added if you want. Some rules you might consider are adding time limits, deciding whether or not skipping a card is allowed, prohibiting all gesturing, or seeing how many cards can be correctly guessed within a certain amount of time.

How can you use these cards as a vocabulary activity? 

There are so many ways you can use these game cards beyond just the typical Taboo game you've likely played in the past! Here are some ideas for how to use them with your students:

  • Pull out these cards in the spare minutes at the end of a lesson to review as a whole class. You can provide the clues to the students as the card-reader, or students can volunteer to be the card-reader. In most classes you will have plenty of volunteers who love having the role of card-reader. (This is my favorite way to use them with my students.)
  • Review content by using a few cards as a warmup or bell ringer at the beginning of class. 
  • Go through the whole deck before a test for a fun review game.
  • Students can work with a partner to play the cards in the deck together.
  • Use these cards as a science center option.
  • Students can work with their tablemates or in small groups to play the cards in the deck together.
  • Show a card with only one or two listed "taboo" words and have students list additional words in their interactive notebooks. Then discuss their answers. 
  • State the boxed vocabulary word on a card that has four or five listed "taboo" words. Have each student write a list of "taboo" words for the word you stated. Students who correctly list the "taboo" words that appear on your card get a small prize. 
  • Students can be assigned a vocabulary word and make their own cards.

How can these cards be differentiated?

Make these cards more challenging by adding to the list of “taboo” words under the boxed word. Four or five listed words is an appropriate amount for your more advanced students. Reduce the difficulty level by removing some of the listed words. Try three “taboo” words for students who have a fair understanding of the topic or just one or two words for students who need more support.

I’ve created many vocabulary game cards for my students, and I now offer the card sets in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Each of my cards comes in four levels of differentiation so teachers can choose the level of difficulty best for their students and print accordingly. 

Where can I get a free set for my classroom?

Want to see if this science vocabulary activity will be a hit with your students? Here is a free middle school science vocabulary PDF.

Save yourself time and get premade game cards!

I have many differentiated vocabulary game cards in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Check out all of my vocabulary game cards. Here are some of the available topics below:

Thank you for reading my blog post! I hope you and your students enjoy using these cards in your classroom as much as I do!

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