Using a Chemistry Glossary

In this short post, I will briefly discuss how I use a glossary of chemistry terms to support student learning. You can find the glossary here. Feel free to make a copy and use as you see fit (please note that it is a live document and so is constantly updated as I teach!).

Why use a glossary? 

Glossaries can be useful for a variety of reasons, and each person will have their own ideas about why they are important. For me, they help in a few ways:

  • Help me as the teacher keep track of what terms I would like learners to understand and be able to use
  • Help learners keep track of terms that will be useful in building their chemical expertise
  • Support learners whose first language is not English by giving them a resource to refer back to
  • Somewhere to record the learning from completing Frayer models during lessons

What is the glossary? 

The glossary utilises the idea of a Frayer model (if you’re not familiar with the Frayer model then check out this awesome resource). 

It consists of the following:

  • The word
  • The definition
  • Facts/characteristics of the word
  • Examples of the word
  • Non-examples of the word 
  • Sentences showing the word used in context

How might you use it? 

A glossary of terms is probably only as good as what you do with it. Here are some ideas of how it might be used:

  • As a tool for teachers so that they can see what terms learners should be familiar with. This might help them with their planning. For example, they might be thinking that they need to teach about the term “substance”. The definition for this might be “a particular kind of matter with uniform properties.” Immediately, the teacher might be thinking, “well, in order to understand what a substance is, students will have to be familiar with the terms “matter, uniform, properties and uniform properties”. This almost provides a sequence of teaching for building up to a solid understanding of the term “substance.”
  • Make a copy of the glossary and delete everything except the word and their definitions. Learners can then fill in the facts/characteristics, examples and non-example as they encounter the terms during lessons. You might have them complete Frayer models beforehand. You can then revisit certain terms periodically to see if learners can add any more examples or non-examples. 
  • Have a completely empty glossary that learners complete as they move through the course
  • Periodically, learners could be asked to use the glossary for some retrieval practice. This could be done in several ways. It could be printed and folded so as to create a set of flashcards. Or learners could just try writing out from memory. Again, it is what you help teachers and learners do with the resource that makes is useful, rather than just having it. 

This list is far from exhaustive! How might you use such a tool?

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