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Resource Library  |  Skill Look-fors  |  K to 3, Grades 4 to 6, Grades 7 to 9, Grades 10 to 12

Using Appropriate Vocabulary

Above Image: Tomato plants grow in a greenhouse © Goldlocki, Wikimedia Commons

Definition: The skill of using appropriate vocabulary involves exploring new vocabulary in context and developing the ability to use vocabulary to communicate thinking and learning.

Using appropriate vocabulary is important because…

  • using appropriate vocabulary is a fundamental literacy skill that allows students to communicate questions, predictions, observations and conclusions
  • when students are exposed to new experiences, tools, and materials, they have the opportunity to expand their language capabilities and pool of specialized vocabulary
  • the development and expansion of language and specialized vocabulary is interconnected with all inquiry skills

Teaching and Learning Use of Appropriate Vocabulary



Are introduced to specialized vocabulary associated with scientific explorations and inquiries

Provide opportunities for students to hear and see vocabulary words associated with scientific processes and concepts (e.g., use scientific words and phrases for concepts such as photosynthesis rather than everyday phrases such as “make their own food” etc.).

Use appropriate vocabulary to describe scientific processes

Encourage students to use appropriate vocabulary when describing scientific processes (e.g., My prediction is…I observe….We conclude that…etc.).

Use appropriate vocabulary to describe objects, places and events

Encourage students to use appropriate vocabulary when describing observations made using their senses (e.g., the first cotyledons appeared on April 30; the peat pellet felt dry so we added more water, etc.).

Use appropriate vocabulary to connect new experiences with what they already know

Provide multiple opportunities for students to connect new words and specialized vocabulary to prior knowledge (e.g., the tomato seeds are much smaller than the bean seeds we grew last year, etc.).

See: Vocabulary Evolution, Vocabulary Preview and Key Concept Exploration learning strategies.

Adapted from IdeaPark by Let’s Talk Science.