Helping students be able to verbalize science vocabulary is key in building a foundation for future science studies. At the middle school level, cooperative activities are also crucial to bolster teamwork, collaborative interactions, and group success. Science labs often require students to work in pairs or small groups, and to the emerging adolescent, this can be an awkward and uncomfortable process. I have found success in combining these two activities with a game I like to call, “A-Z”. Students love the fast paced chance to recall their vocabulary, and I love to just sit back and watch the students interact.

The materials are about as simple as it gets – scrap paper, a pencil, and a timer or some sort. Students break into groups of no more than 3. On scrap paper, students write the alphabet down the left hand margin on the paper. Enter the science. Depending on what we are working on, I give the students a topic, and then tell them they have 4 minutes to write down as many words as a group that can think of that associate with that topic for each letter of the alphabet.  For example, for a category of weather, the student responses might look like this:

A.  Atmosphere

B. Barometer

C. Cirrus Clouds

D. Dew Point

E. Evaporation

and so on.  After the 4 minutes are up, groups share their responses, crossing off common answers between the groups.  The unique answers remaining are the ones that receive points.

I really enjoy this activity because it ties in current vocabulary to previous experiences, as well as gives those students who did some study on their own to share their knowledge. More often than not, everyone has something to share. The neat thing is that this activity lends itself to other disciplines, ages groups, and abilities. Whether it be historical figures of the Civil War, or Spanish words of things you find in your school, the opportunities are endless. Once it’s played a few times during the year, it makes for a substitute teacher favorite.


About Tina Duver

Tina Duver is the Dean of Middle School Students at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, New York. She is the 6th and 8th Grade Science Teacher and coach of the First Lego League team and U.S. Department of Energy Science Bowl team.

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