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Biology Word of the Day

Jeff Lukens

This is a daily activity that can be done in a Biology class, or any other science class. It helps to strengthen students' vocabulary, encourages responsibility, and allows students to express themselves through the written medium with which they are most comfortable. It is easy for the teacher and fun for the students.

Toward the end of the class period, students are given a small slip of paper which has the Word of the Day (WOD) on it. At the beginning of the class period the following day, the students hand in their description of that word. I make each word worth 5 points, but a student can earn up to 10 points (5 extra credit) for going above and beyond a simple definition/description. They are encouraged to use artwork, write poems, include the word in a sentence, etc. Anything they want to do is fair game. For a simple definition, they earn the 5 points. If they have extra/creative stuff, I determine the amount of extra credit they have earned. Rarely does a student earn a 10, but 6's and 7's are very common. Some real wall-flowers have really started to shine when we start the WOD!

It takes about 5 minutes to go through the work of one class. I score them quickly, maybe jot a brief comment, record them, and hand them back right then or the next day. In other words, it is not a burdensome task! If a word-a-day is too much, do it as often as you like. You will be amazed at the quality of product you get from students. I have WOD stuff plastered up all over the classroom. We use WOD products in class when we get to that word in the curriculum. The students feel pretty proud when one of their WOD's gets recognized by everyone! When I started this activity, the moans and groans of my students were audible throughout the school. Now, however, kids walk in the door and ask for their WOD! What a motivator!

To compile a word list, the first thing I did is to open a new spreadsheet file, open to the index of a Biology book, and choose about 5-6 words from each letter of the alphabet (fewer for some letters, more for others!). In the "A" column of the spreadsheet, I type the "A" words, "B" words in the "B" column, etc. This simply helps me to stay organized. Then I move through the alphabet with their WOD's. For example, day 1 they might get "abyss", day 2 "bacillus", day 3 "calyx", etc. When I get to "zygote", I go back to the next "A" word in the spreadsheet.

This is a fun and educational activity that is interdisciplinary, teaches responsibility, and brings out the best in a student. Give the Word of the Day idea a try!!

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